Pssst! Book your calendar for Parks Day out at Beauvais Lake this coming Saturday, July 15th!
By Nata de Leeuw, OWC Outreach Assistant
Like many Albertans, I grew up camping and exploring in national and provincial parks, and have so many great memories of these places - like riding my bike around the campground, playing in the lakes and streams, and having campfires with my family. Little did I know at that age, parks provide so many opportunities and services besides just camping! Let me tell you why parks are important to our watershed.
Parks, private land, and other public lands (whether federal or provincial) comprise the fabric of our watershed. They contribute economic, social, and environmental opportunities and services, helping ensure that people, wildlife, and habitat thrive.
Social and Recreational Value
In both national and provincial parks, the goal is to preserve our natural heritage for future generations, while also allowing citizens and visitors to experience and benefit from these natural areas today.
In fact, the first national park in Canada (Banff) was established in 1885 with the aim of promoting tourism and recreation in the hot springs, and the earliest provincial parks (est. 1930 onwards) “were small recreation sites providing scenic spots for Albertans to swim and picnic” (Alberta Parks: Our History). Parks are places for families to spend time together, for people to connect with nature, challenge themselves, and be inspired.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Oldman watershed is home to the world’s first designated International Peace Park, the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park - which is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
According to the Parks Canada Council, “The province enjoying the largest economic impacts from parks was Alberta: in 2008-09 the value added (GDP) retained in Alberta was $1.4 billion from spending associated with provincial and national parks; over 17,500 full-time equivalent jobs are generated by this spending. ” (The Economic Impact of Canada’s National, Provincial & Territorial Parks in 2009).
Environmental Value & Services
Parks work helps create and maintain natural areas with fully-functioning ecosystems, ensuring that everyone has a chance to witness and connect with our natural landscapes. One of the challenges is how to balance recreation with preservation. Parks regulate and limit the buildings, roads, and other infrastructure and disturbances within their boundaries, providing more space for wildlife.
Parks also help safeguard our water quality and play a role in buffering surrounding land from flood and drought. By protecting intact ecosystems, they allow for the drainage process to occur in a natural way that reduces the risk of floods, stores water during droughts, and filters water naturally. In this way, parks help keep our homes safe in the event of a big rainfall and reduces the amount of money taxpayers spend on water treatment.
All About that Balance
There are often trade-offs to consider when balancing these social, environmental, and economic factors in our parks - and the watershed as a whole. You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” This proverb applies to the management and health of the Oldman watershed as well - one of our strengths lies in the diversity of our economic activities and land uses here in southwestern Alberta. Our parks and protected areas are one component of maintaining a healthy watershed - one that will continue to meet our present and future needs, including clean, clear drinking water!
What can you do to help our parks? That’s easy - get out there and experience them! The more people that visit our parks, the more we can invest in them for the future. Parks exist for everyone, so get out there and make your own memories!
You can also participate in one of OWC's restoration events and join in with the busy volunteers who are also learning about bioengineering and riparian restoration work. Details about volunteer opportunities are available on all our social media channels, or by calling (403) 330 1346
Celebrate Parks Day with OWC!
Parks Day is this Saturday, July 15th, at Beauvais Lake Provincial Park! Our Outreach Assistants will be there with fun presentations and activities related to watershed health! To get an idea of what’s in store, have a look at our flickr photo album from last year.
Here's where it is:
See you on Saturday!