ontario parks association

Protecting Tomorrow Today®

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  • 10 Feb 2020 12:19 PM | Keely Powley (Administrator)

    Grey Infrastructure is any human-made water management system (eg. pipes, pumps, drains, water treatment plants, ditches etc…). The goal of Grey Infrastructure is to move water quickly - out of sight, out of mind.

    Green Infrastructure is natural water management systems (eg. forests,wetlands, green roofs, gardens, parks etc…). Green Infrastructure moves water more effectively than Grey Infrastructure by collecting it (in stormwater ponds, gardens, wetlands, trees etc…) and slowly releasing it into sewers, lakes or rivers. This approach prevents flooding, cleans the water, and provides natural spaces for people and animals to enjoy. Not only does Green Infrastructure more effectively move water, it also provides communities incredible benefits. 

    Here are our top 7 benefits:


    1. Climate change: absorption of greenhouse gasses, urban cooling effects, reduced carbon emissions, preventing erosion

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    2. Stormwater management: reduced flooding and runoff, water absorption and filtering, create a buffer to protect urban areas, improved water quality.

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    3. Ecosystem health: habitat for a variety of local species, bodies of freshwater, plants that provide food for pollinators, water filtration.

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    4. Energy: reduced energy consumption (providing shade in the summer, and protection in the winter).

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    5. Public health: aesthetics of green spaces has been linked to improved mood and focus, reduced symptoms of mental illnesses (eg depression, anxiety, ADHD), increased physical activity, decreased incidence of asthma, buffer from traffic and other city noises, protects the quality of our drinking water, improved air quality, faster recovery, improved child development (motor, and social skills), local food production.

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    6. Community: green spaces provide a space for individuals and families to interact and build relationships, increased use on common spaces in housing projects.

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    7. Economics: increased property value by creating a visually appealing property and being near park and open spaces, lower up-front costs, reduced maintenance and extended lifespan, flood prevention resulting in reduced financial impact, new long-term jobs and business opportunities, extended roof lifespan by protecting the roof from radiation, and extreme temperatures.

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    Nature does it best, so why don’t we invest?

    When planning new development, consider living green infrastructure before choosing grey infrastructure. Choose permeable pavement surfaces, build rain gardens with native species, plant more trees, and implement rain harvesting materials such as rain barrels or storm ponds. 


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    Have a blog topic suggestion? Email us at opa@ontarioparksassociation.ca.


  • 13 Jan 2020 12:17 PM | Keely Powley (Administrator)

    You may have never realized being a parks and recreation worker would also mean being in customer service. When working in a park or recreation centre, you are often seen by the public as the person with all of the answers, or the sounding board for complaints. To many, this is a daunting part of the job, but it doesn’t have to be! 


    Here are our top 5 tips for responding to the public:

    1. Wear a smile!: When responding to the public, attitude is everything. If you approach someone with a smile and pleasant attitude, your conversation will likely go a lot more smoothly and positively. 

    2. Ask how you can helpShow you are there for them, and want to be of assistance. This will make them trust you and shows you care. You are opening the door for the conversation to continue, rather than shutting them down. 

    3. Listen carefullySometimes, people just need a listening ear. They don’t need answers, they just want their thoughts or concerns heard. Take the time to listen without judgement or interrupting. Be a good listener. Listen to words and tone of voice, pay attention to body language, and most importantly, recognize feelings.

    4. Be honest: Sometimes people ask questions that you might have the answer to. Answer them as honestly and fully as you can. If you don’t have the answer, just say so. It is always better to say you don’t know and give them the number of your supervisor, than to make up an answer you think they want to hear. 

    5. Change your perspective: Somethings you will be confronted with a difficult person. Remember that if you can’t change them, you can at least change how you perceive them and how you react. When you remain pleasant and undisturbed it makes it hard for the other person to continue being combative. Keeping yourself calm will often have a calming effect on others.


    What are your tips for dealing with members of the public? Share your success stories in the comments! 


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    Have a blog topic suggestion? Email us at opa@ontarioparksassociation.ca


  • 06 Jan 2020 12:09 PM | Keely Powley (Administrator)

    How many playgrounds do you provide per 1000 children? What does it cost you to maintain each playground? What do your park visitors value about your parks? How many hectares of parkland do you provide per 1000 residents? 


    Can you answer those questions? If not, don’t worry - you are not alone. Most new members of the Yardstick program had the same problem… until they started benchmarking! Now they can provide quantifiable data to their council, employees and communities about parks and open spaces. 


    Yardstick is a benchmarking tool that delivers “need to know” information for your community to inform your decision-making and improve your service delivery. Yardstick Parks comprises of two projects: Yardstick Benchmarks and Yardstick User Surveys. 


    Yardstick Benchmarks provides a system to collect and analyze data, to identify total park provision and annual operating and capital expenditure. It is also designed to identify and promote industry best practice in areas such as service delivery, asset management and strategic planning. When you join this program, you complete an online questionnaire annually to collect financial and usage data for the current year. 


    Yardstick User Surveys are a system to survey users of your parks to collect information relating to services and facilities provided and their level of satisfaction. The results can provide powerful information to assess your performance against others in the industry.


    By taking part in these programs you can: 

    • Identify, plan and improve your strategic goals and direction

    • Record your operation costs against a variety of criteria

    • Develop parks strategies and levels of service

    • Compare locally, nationally and internationally

    • Better understand your customers 

    • Prioritize improvements and development programs

    • And so much more!


    Over 120 organizations worldwide are already part of Yardstick. Interested in learning more or signing up your organization? Contact Chris Rutherford at Yardstick (chris@xyst.biz).

  • 23 Dec 2019 8:58 AM | Keely Powley (Administrator)

    A lot of employers hand out uniforms to their staff, be it a hat, shirt or full outfit. But staff often choose not to wear them. Why do employers care how you look when digging in a garden or riding on a mower?

    One reason for uniforms is safety. If you wear loose clothing, it could get tangled in your equipment. If you wear clothes that expose your skin without sunscreen, you could get a serious sunburn. If you wear shorts in grassy or wooded areas you could be exposed to poison ivy, giant hogweed or ticks. Wearing your uniform will help protect you from these potential hazards in the workplace.

    The biggest reason for your employer to assign a uniform is to enhance your organization's image. Think of your favourite sports team. You probably thought of them in their jersey and gear right? Now picture a trip to a hardware store like Home Depot - how would you recognize an employee? The bright orange apron, of course! 

    Uniforms in the workplace help you look like you are part of a team, and make you easily recognized by the public. This helps bring a professional image to your role and organization as a whole. Make sure you keep your uniform clean and well maintained so you like the amazing professional you are!

    Along with your assigned uniform, remember to always wear a smile and a good attitude when at work. Your body language says just as much as your clothes! 

    It takes just 7 seconds for a stranger to make a judgement based on how you look. When working in a park, what judgement do you want the public to make about your or your organization?  


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    Have a blog topic suggestion? Email us at opa@ontarioparksassociation.ca


  • 16 Dec 2019 12:00 PM | Keely Powley (Administrator)

    It's that time of year again - winter. This brings back all of the winter activities the public love, like winter hikes, skating or hockey and, of course, tobogganing. Families wander around their town looking for that perfect hill to climb, so they can set up their sled and speed to the bottom, and then do it all over again. Every municipality approaches tobogganing hills differently though. Some see toboggan hills as a liability, and discourage public use. Others see them as a way to get people using parks in the cold winter months and encourage the public to be creative in their use of open spaces. 


    Today, let’s take a look at this issue from both sides.

    In the winter months, with fewer staff available to many municipalities, it can be nearly impossible to safely manage every potential toboggan hill, which is why some municipalities choose to ban the activity from public spaces. Municipalities that discourage tobogganing in public spaces do so to keep the public safe from potential risks, and reduce liability that falls on the municipality. Depending on the space, the public could be in danger of colliding with obstacles (such as park equipment, backstops, fences or trees) when speeding down their makeshift mountain. Municipalities aren’t wrong to worry about the safety of their public. According to a study by Columbus, between 1997 and 2007 over 20,000 children were treated in the emergency room for tobogganing related injuries each year (yikes!). When a serious injury occurs, the municipality in charge of this space is often found liable for the incident and are then in danger of lawsuits. 

    Municipalities that are thinking about banning this activity should assess all potential risks surrounding popular tobogganing locations, meet with a risk management organization, and create a policy explaining to the public why the activity has been banned. The municipality should also look into creating proper signage in parks, pointing out the risk involved in this activity. For some sample signage and policies, visit the OPA Members Resource Library.

    If your municipality chooses not to ban tobogganing, how can you ensure patrons have a great time, and stay safe? Some groups assess the risks and find ways to remove them (e.g. removing or relocating benches, and backstops). If the risk cannot be removed (such as a light post), hay bales can be used to create an inexpensive barrier to stop tobogganers gently. Staff should inspect the park regularly to ensure the area is safe and use signage to communicate potential risks to the public.

    So where do you stand? Will your municipality ban or embrace tobogganing this winter? Tell us in the comments what you will be doing to handle this issue!



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    Have a blog topic suggestion? Email us at opa@ontarioparksassociation.ca


  • 09 Dec 2019 9:31 AM | Keely Powley (Administrator)

    Did you know new and young workers are 4x more likely to get injured within their first month on the job than any other time? This is because they are not properly trained, unaware of the hazards, afraid to ask questions and/or unsure of what to expect.

    So what are your rights as a worker? And who is required to make sure these rights are respected?

    Being fluent in in the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OH&S) will help protect and empower you in the workplace, whether you are a brand new staff, or a seasoned supervisor.

    As a worker, you have three basic rights according to the OH&S Act. You have:

    • The right to refuse unsafe work
    • The right to participate in health and safety activities
    • The right to be informed of dangerous aspects of your job

    The responsibility to ensure these rights are met falls on the manager or supervisor. It is also the responsibility of the manager or supervisor to ensure workers have the correct PPE, and training to do their job.

    OPA training sessions are instructed by industry experts, all across Ontario. Through a combination of in-class theory and hands-on experience, attendees leave confident in their new skills, and ready to take on additional responsibilities in their workplace. We are always working to develop new courses based on feedback, and to continue to meet the needs of our members. Current training session include:

    • *NEW* Ball Field Maintenance Practical Clinic

    • Ball Diamond Maintenance Workshop

    • Basic Chipper Handling Workshop

    • Book 7 Workshop

    • Bridge Inspection Workshop

    • Chainsaw Safety (One and Two Day Training)

    • Irrigation Technician Workshop

    • *NEW* Invasive Species Workshop

    • *NEW* Parks Operations and Maintenance

    • Registered Playground Practitioner 

    • Seasonal Equipment Training

    • Spray Pad Practitioner

    • Trails Specialist Workshop

    • Train the Trainer Workshop


    If you have already taken several of these training sessions, you may qualify for our Intermediate and Advanced Parks Practitioner Designation! We believe parks employees are a wealth of experience and knowledge, and we want to help recognize that. Applying for the Intermediate and Advanced designations will assist members in planning their professional development goals, and give them confidence in the knowledge they have in their field. This program will also help employers confidently choose employees, knowing they have the skills required to competently do the job.

    Visit our Education page to learn more about these programs. Have more questions about OH&S Act? Check out this Fact Sheet or consider taking our Parks Operations and Maintenance course.


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    Have a blog topic suggestion? Email us at opa@ontarioparksassociation.ca

  • 02 Dec 2019 1:01 PM | Keely Powley (Administrator)

    Do you love spending time in parks, open spaces, and nature? Do you work in the parks and recreation industry? You have definitely come to the right place then!  

    We are Ontario Parks Association (OPA). 

    Our non-profit charitable organization was founded in 1936. We focus on Protecting Tomorrow Today® through three methods.

    Educate: We believe continued professional development is important to maintaining engaging parks and open spaces for our communities. We currently offer 17 hands-on training sessions on a variety of topics relevant to parks and open space professionals, including Chainsaw Safety, Irrigation Training, Ball Diamond Maintenance, Playground Inspection and more! We take our training session across Ontario to ensure everyone has the opportunity to learn. 

    Advocate: Imagine a time in the future without your neighbourhood playground, wooded area where you hike or park where you take a lunch break. Unfortunately you may not have to look into the distant future. These spaces are victims of pollution, vandalism, deterioration and decreased funding. We work to advocate for the importance of parks and open spaces in all communities. We believe parks are essential to healthy communities and that everyone has the right to enjoy them.    

    Celebrate: We believe it is important to celebrate the achievements of students, organizations and individuals who make an impact on parks and open spaces. We do this through an annual awards recognition programs. Anyone has the opportunity to nominate an individual or organization for one of our four awards - Student Award of Recognition, Environmental Impact Award, Community Engagement Award or Lifetime Achievement Award.

    If you work for a municipal parks department, conservation authority, or organization that works in the parks and open space industry, we want to work with you! Consider getting an OPA Membership for discounted training fees, access to an exclusive discussion forum, a subscription to our quarterly magazine and so much more!

    Thank you for checking out our very first blog post! We hope this blog will be a space for you to learn about the amazing parks and open spaces throughout Ontario, the benefits of time in nature, and how OPA is here to help!

    Until next time, we hope you will work on Protecting Tomorrow Today® in your neighbourhood.


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    Have a blog topic suggestion? Email us: opa@ontarioparksassociation.ca.
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