National urban parks: conserve and connect, together

Parks Canada is collaborating with partners to protect a network of natural areas in urban centers. This way, more Canadians can connect with nature.

National urban parks are new to the family of protected and conserved areas in Canada. They will build on the success of Rouge National Urban Park created in Toronto, Ontario.

Watch an animation of national urban parks in Canada.


Parks Canada Beaver Logo

[City noises with a bus engine accelerating]

An illustration of a city skyline with skyscrapers and concrete buildings appears in the background with a road in the foreground. A location pin drops, identifying the city as Toronto.

A city bus appears on the road and begins travelling from left to right. As the bus travels, the landscape behind it changes from cityscape to a suburban setting with detached houses and trees.

[The background noise of the city slowly fades out as birds and insect sounds begin to get louder]

The bus arrives at a bus stop surrounded by lush forest and other greenery. A location pin drops, identifying it as Rouge National Urban Park.

The scene changes to a location in the urban park. Trees and a pond with cattails, a heron and a turtle are shown in the distance.

In the foreground, a large leafed tree stands tall to the left while a butterfly perched on a bush to the right flutters its wings. Two people look out over the pond from a path that weaves through the park as they admire the natural scenery. One person is wearing a backpack, while the other in a wheelchair is holding up a pair of binoculars. A third person rides by on a bike, wearing a helmet.

The scene changes again to an illustrated landscape map. Along the top are mountains, a forest, a river, and an urban centre. The middle shows two urban centres and farmland. Along the bottom, there is a big city with water and sailboats. Four location pins drop one after the other in various locations throughout the map, indicating that there are more urban parks to come in other locations across Canada.

Government of Canada logo

Parks and green spaces have never been so important to Canadians. That’s one reason Parks Canada is working with others to bring more natural areas closer to home for more Canadians.

A family with two young children sit smiling on a picnic blanket while the children play in the sand.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

It takes a city

Parks Canada can only create national urban parks by working with others. Some of these groups include:

  • Indigenous partners
  • Municipalities
  • Provinces
  • Conservation organizations
  • Park advocacy groups

Parks Canada is currently exploring potential national urban parks in 7 cities across Canada. These include:

  • Halifax, Nova Scotia
  • Montreal, Quebec
  • Edmonton region, Alberta
  • Saskatoon region, Saskatchewan
  • Victoria region, British Columbia
  • Windsor, Ontario
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba
A close-up of a person smiling stands while looking upward on a forested trail.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

Parks Canada works with local partners in each urban area. Together, they will decide if and how a place will join the Parks Canada family and become a national urban park. If so, they will join a legacy of protecting and presenting nature for over 110 years.

A person wearing a lifejacket sits on a kayak while paddling toward marsh grasses and a bridge overhead.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

Considerations for the Blue Mountain-Birch Cove Lakes park involve a lot of partners. They include Halifax, the Mi’kmaq, the Province of Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Nature Trust, and Parks Canada. Stakeholders and the public are also involved.

Richard Harvey
Manager of Policy and Planning, Parks and Recreation, Halifax Regional Municipality

National urban parks will be shaped by local contexts, relationships, cultures, and traditional land uses. Parks Canada and partners will work together to develop a shared vision for that space.

Two people sit on yoga mats on the beach as they look off toward the water.
Photo: Valerie Burke/Parks Canada
A person rides a bicycle on a paved path along the shores of a sandy beach with trees in the summertime.
Photo: Heike Kis/Parks Canada

Parks Canada knows the unique local situations that may exist across the country. Like ours [in Halifax], that includes all our partnerships.

Richard Harvey
Manager of Policy and Planning, Parks and Recreation, Halifax Regional Municipality

Opportunities for land, water, and people

National urban parks can create new opportunities in urban areas. They can help conserve nature. They can also benefit people and communities.

Lands and waters

National urban parks are a big opportunity to stop, and even reverse, the loss of plants and animals in urban and near-urban settings. They safeguard natural spaces for future generations.

A close up of a child kneeling on the ground, as they look at a guidebook held by another.

Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

A small bird sticks its head out of a nest that’s built in the crevasses of steel bridge beams.

Photo: Heike Kis/Parks Canada

A brown rabbit sits upright on a gravel path surrounded by grass and yellow flowers.

Photo: Heike Kis/Parks Canada

A close up of someone's cell phone screen as they take a photo of a nearby salamander.

Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

Protected areas also provide natural solutions to climate change. When trees, wetlands, and biodiversity are conserved, we increase our resilience to climate change. Protecting nature helps to slow and lessen the impacts of climate change so we can adapt. This benefits us all.

A person in an orange kayak paddles on water among wetlands as a heron stands watching.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada
A close up of an orange and black butterfly resting on a purple and red flower.
Photo: Cassie Pellerin/Parks Canada

People and communities

Spending time in natural areas, with activities like forest bathing, may improve mental health and wellness. They provide important wilderness recreation opportunities, like hiking and paddling. They also provide quiet, calm spaces in urban environments where people might enhance their appreciation of nature. Yet, two out of three Canadians live, work, learn and play in cities and don’t have easy access to natural green spaces.

Two senior people walk on an enclosed wooden boardwalk over water, while a transit train passes in the distance.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada
Two people in wheelchairs on a wooden boardwalk enjoy the fall forest and surrounding wetlands.
Photo: Cassie Pellerin/Parks Canada
Three youth lean on a large tree in the wintertime while holding hands.
Photo: Rob Stimpson/Parks Canada
Two people bundled up for winter stop in the snow to take a selfie by a steel bridge and woods.
Photo: Rob Stimpson/Parks Canada

National urban parks enable more people to connect with, and learn about, nature and culture close to home.

Five people in the forest look attentively at the ground. Two people have their cameras ready.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada
Two smiling young people stand closely together while taking a selfie in front of a wetland.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada
A person smiles while taking a photo among tall grasses.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

These sites also have the potential to create jobs related to the park. National urban parks could be a draw for more tourists to visit the area.

A group of people gather around a person holding a snake. One person holds a pamphlet of different snakes.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

These are some of the reasons why national urban parks can play an important role in increasing well-being and social inclusion.

A group of five young people and a dog walk together while crossing over a bridge made of wood and steel.

Photo: Valerie Burke/Parks Canada

A close up of a child holding a piece of paper against a tree while using his pencil to fill out information.

Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

Two senior people stand next to one another smiling as they look over a wooden rail onto a wetland.

Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

A large group of people walk along a paved path through a forested area in autumn.

Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

Indigenous voices

Parks Canada and partners are working closely with Indigenous partners to create national urban parks. These are places that could:

  • provide space for Indigenous stewardship
  • promote Indigenous voices and stories
  • offer opportunities for connections to lands and waters based on Indigenous knowledge and values
A person holding a hand-drum looks up while a group of people sit around a fire in the background.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada
Two children are being taught how to play the hand-drum by a skilled teacher.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

National urban parks are important for working towards reconciliation. Indigenous peoples also have a role to play in managing, protecting, and conserving these areas. These will be places where all Indigenous peoples are welcome, and where their rights and interests are respected.

Having an Urban park in Treaty 6 territory is a step in the right direction towards reconciliation. It will not only provide a connection to the land, but the park will also provide opportunities for healing and cultural celebration for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. The collaboration between Indigenous peoples and Parks Canada is historic.

Chief Tony Alexis
Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation
A gravel path surrounded by grassy fields travels into the distance at sunset.
Photo: Heike Kis/Parks Canada

The road ahead

Parks Canada is committed to supporting the creation of 15 new national urban parks by 2030. Whether making new sites, or adding onto an existing one, this work will not be done alone. Close collaborations will be key to this expansion.

Two people hold hands walking along the shores of a beach.
Photo: Valerie Burke/Parks Canada
One person carries a canoe over their head while another person holding two paddles cheers them on.
Photo: Valerie Burke/Parks Canada

Parks Canada is working with partners and the public to develop the first national urban park policy. This policy will help guide the creation of a future network of national urban parks.

Two people walk on a wooden boardwalk in a forested area. A power line stretches above them.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

Together, let’s work to create national urban parks that:

  • conserve nature
  • connect more people with nature
  • and advance reconciliation with Indigenous peoples
A person standing in the woods engages two people through storytelling.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada
A person sewing fabric smiles and laughs while looking at another person who smiles back.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada
An aerial view of two people standing at the shore of an urban wetland watching two people in kayaks paddle by.
Photo: Scott Munn/Parks Canada

Learn more about national urban parks at Parks Canada.

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