"Our parks have been a part of who we are - Our history, identity and pride"
The first large-scale parks conference in Canada kicked off in Canmore Alberta on April 11, 2016, bringing together parks advocates and professionals from across the country, including representation from all levels of government, parks and recreation associations, parks staff and administration and academics to discuss common issues and hopes affecting the Parks sector in Canada.
Over the next week, 160 delegates will engage in a mix of speaker presentations, information sessions, working group sessions and opportunities for creative dialogue, in order to further the goal of creating a national vision, or framework, for moving the parks agenda forward.
A Warm Welcome
Delegates were welcomed to the summit by Co-Chair, Dawn Carr, Executive Director of the Canadian Parks Council and Murray Kopp, Chair of the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association Task Group along with greetings from The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Cameron Westhead, MLA, Mayor of Canmore, John Borrowman, and a special blessing from the Kananaskis First Nation.
National Geographic Explorer in Residence Wade Davis then took the stage to share with the delegates a reminder of both the beauty and power of Canada's Wilderness and our connection to it. He then spoke of the fragility of this space in the face of economic interests noting that while the world has great capacity for social change, It has also seen entire animal species wiped out in less than a single generation. He challenged delegates to consider why, when we are so tied to the land as Canadians, do we accept that those who have never set foot in our sacred spaces may disturb them for their financial endeavours, and why is time not spent exploring the economic values that could be placed on leaving our wild lands untouched?
The evening wound up with an introduction to a team of Summit Artists who are joining the discussions with a unique artistic perspective and serve as a reminder of the close ties of art and nature. On site are a visual artist, musician and video artist who will support the proceedings and create new works based on discussions, or, as noted by Artist George Woodhouse; "We are here to put the 'art' in Earth!
Open Spaces and Rolled-Up Sleeves
Finally the process for the days events was laid out and delegates were informed this is not to be a summit of passive listening, but a time for real work and engagement. The vision for Canadian Parks can not be decided by a few, but will be formed by open discourse and discussions, including those at the summit, which are to be captured and shared with the larger parks community.