Mt. Royal U: Groundbreaking new collective will improve Canada’s beloved parks
The Institute for Environmental Sustainability (IES) at Mount Royal University, with the Canadian Parks Council and founding academic partners Royal Roads University and York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, have announced the creation of the Canadian Parks Collective for Innovation and Leadership (CPCIL).
A pan-Canadian centre of excellence, CPCIL will develop and connect emerging leaders, innovative managers and engaged scholars in pursuit of the effective, inclusive, equitable and sustainable stewardship of parks and conservation areas.
The Canadian Parks Council (CPC) is a collaboration of all federal, provincial and territorial parks administration. Its mission is to engage people with nature and to continuously improve the management and stewardship of Canada’s parks and protected areas.
In 2017, the CPC invited proposals from more than 40 academic institutions in Canada to create a nationally relevant, accessible, modern and research-based approach to supporting parks and protected areas professionals. Building on the legacy of the previous CPC Parks System Leadership Course, the desire was also to coordinate mentorships and facilitate access to technical training, foster communities of practice and connect research and practice.
The successful proposal came from Mount Royal University’s Institute for Environmental Sustainability, which submitted a bid with Royal Roads University and York University’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. The initial five-year agreement commits $250,000 per year in base funding, program registration and in-kind support to the CPCIL. Future grants and sponsorships may add additional capacity and funding.
In order to reflect the pan-Canadian nature of parks and protected areas across Canada, Mount Royal is building the CPCIL in collaboration with Royal Roads and York. Continuing Education of the Université de Moncton will help support Francophone participants in the program. A school from Northern Canada will be added to this core team in coming months. As the CPCIL grows, additional academic institutions will be engaged to collaborate on related research and scholarly projects.
Start-up work began in February 2018 with a focus on defining governance and programming frameworks, identifying themes, planning alumni re-engagement and building relationships with additional universities in Atlantic and Northern Canada.
Don Carruthers Den Hoed, PhD, a 26-year veteran of provincial parks and alumni of the Park Systems Leadership Course, will be appointed to a post-doctoral position in the IES and serve as the senior fellow and manager of the CPCIL.
“This role is a dream opportunity to directly engage with diverse park leaders as well as Indigenous and community partners across the country through applied research about the environmental sustainability of park agencies and protected areas in general,” said Carruthers Den Hoed. “More specifically, the role can serve as a broker for relationships that will support leadership development and knowledge-sharing between park agencies and researchers across Canada.”
Over the next year, the CPCIL will launch four main programs aimed at mid-career and emerging leaders from CPC member park agencies and partner organizations:
- A Park Leaders Development Program that will bring together 25 parks and protected areas leaders from across Canada to hone their leadership skills while tackling current and complex issues facing parks and protected areas. This eight-month program will begin in fall 2018 and run twice annually—with online collaboration and a five-day face-to-face residency held primarily in the Eastern Slopes and eventually in other parts of Canada.
- A Training and Resource Inventory that will build on a shared database of training opportunities offered by CPC members and provide access to pioneering approaches, cross-agency participation, and learning opportunities and resources offered by collaborating academic institutions.
- An Innovation and Collaboration Hub, an interactive online forum that will showcase innovative approaches to parks and protected areas leadership, share stories of governance, highlight challenges facing parks and protected areas, mobilize relevant research and support communities of practice.
- A Parks and Protected Areas Leaders and Academics Group, a network of CPCIL alumni, park-focused scholars, research-focused park staff, Indigenous collaborators, and associated groups that can pursue collaborative projects and research opportunities, generate dialogue and facilitate mentorships across Canada.
Potential themes include: organizational change and stability, managing healthy organizations, effective leadership communication, ecosystem and cultural resources management, continuum of protected areas, inclusion and equity, Indigenous and community relationships, partnerships and collaboration, connecting to nature through parks, social and recreational management, the value of parks and the business of managing parks.
In addition, six staff members from CPC park agencies or CPCIL alumni, five representatives from partner universities and Indigenous advisors will form a CPCIL Advisory Group to guide strategic planning and theme selection.
Ahead of Parks Day in Canada on July 21, Carruthers Den Hoed said the CPCIL supports the Parks For All priorities of building the capability of current and future leaders and developing a National Centre of Excellence in park management, in which the parks community can convene to share knowledge and best practices and deliver training. Effective and equitable management of parks and conservation areas are also priorities for the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 and Canada’s Pathway to Target One, the IUCN and Indigenous and community partners.
“Defining a place as a park is only one step in ensuring that landscape conserves biological diversity. Parks must also be managed effectively to respond to changing environmental conditions and to ensure people of all backgrounds, abilities and means can connect with nature appropriately through research, recreation, tourism and as residents of nearby communities,” he said. “Building leadership is important to ensure this management is responsible and collaborative — especially between park agencies and local and Indigenous communities — so that protected areas continue to be relevant and sustainable based on evolving understandings of how to conserve biological diversity and how to reconnect people as part of nature.”
Mount Royal’s Institute for Environmental Sustainability is committed to interdisciplinary research, scholarship, student learning, and community engagement in the area of environmental sustainability.
“The Institute believes in collaboration both within Mount Royal and with external partners to address often complex sustainability issues,” said director Connie Van der Byl, PhD, a professor in general management at Mount Royal. “The CPCIL will play an important role in supporting the success of our national and provincial parks, which are critical to our country’s environmental and social health. We have a number of faculty active in engaging with the parks in research and teaching. Building on that foundation we are excited to support the CPCIL and are thrilled to bring Don Carruthers Den Hoed into the Institute as post-doctoral fellow.”
“This initiative aligns with Mount Royal’s new strategic priority areas of enhanced research culture and sustainability. The CPCIL will provide opportunity for advancing innovation in learning and for developing novel multidisciplinary research.”
The Institute also plans to involve undergraduate students in engaging with parks leaders.
“Parks are important in preserving nature and providing social and health benefits,” Van der Byl said. “The work done through this collective will support their long-term viability.”
Michael Quinn, PhD, associate vice-president of Research, Scholarship and Community Engagement at Mount Royal, said the initiative epitomizes MRU’s commitment and capacity in the realm of applied, community-engaged scholarship.
“Moreover, this further establishes the IES as a leader in sustainability research and practice. Having Don Carruthers Den Hoed join MRU as a post-doctoral fellow on this project is a great step forward for MRU. We look forward to playing a leadership role with the agency and academic partners.”