Saanich experienced a significant increase in park usage due in part to the district’s Natural Intelligence campaign. (Black Press media file photo)

Saanich experienced a significant increase in park usage due in part to the district’s Natural Intelligence campaign. (Black Press media file photo)

Saanich parks featured for a first time in Canadian City Parks report

Municipality’s Natural Intelligence program noted for increasing park use

Saanich parks were assessed for the first time ever this year by the 2022 Canadian City Park Report.

The fourth annual report by Charity Park People showed the results of research profiling 30 cities. The study measures local and national trends in parks, highlighting cities that excel in different areas.

Saanich was the lone Greater Victoria municipality involved and stood out in more ways than one: 65 per cent of the district’s total parkland is natural area, 69 per cent of park washrooms are open year-round and Indigenous reconciliation remains a key goal of park management.

Out of the eight British Columbia municipalities surveyed in the study, Saanich ranked second for its amount of publicly accessible green space and third in amount of natural area overall.

The study’s authors particularly noted the district’s Natural Intelligence program, designed to encourage people to connect with nature in ways that are more accessible to them. The program suggests ways for people to practice reciprocity with nature, such as through volunteering for stewardship activities.

By most metrics it’s been a success.

The report referenced research done by Saanich parks staff, using Google data, to determine how many people were using parks relative to a 2019 baseline. They found a 100 per cent increase during the campaign – over and above the pandemic-induced bump in park use seen in neighbouring municipalities. Not only has the program helped increase park use it spurred growing discussion about the future of the municipality’s parks, the report noted.

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@AustinEastphal
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