BRAMPTON, ON (September 15, 2023) – In a world increasingly dominated by screens and sedentary lifestyles further exacerbated by the pandemic, the importance of connecting with nature has never been more crucial. An innovative solution has been developed to address this need and benefit all people living in Canada, particularly those facing health inequalities.
Physical activity is essential to living a long, healthy and productive life, and provides a wide range of benefits. Unfortunately, only 49% of adults and 28% of kids meet recommended physical activity guidelines. Alarmingly, racially diverse groups, women and girls, newcomers to Canada, persons with disabilities, and members of the 2SLGBTQIA+ and Indigenous communities report even lower rates of physical activity participation, placing these equity-deserving groups at greater risk for poor health outcomes.
Being physically active outdoors has proven to have greater physical and mental health benefits including stress reduction, increased energy, and a boosted immune system. The recognition of nature’s ability to restore physical and mental health inspired the development of the ParticiPARKS pilot project by ParticipACTION, a national nonprofit inspiring and supporting people in Canada to make physical activity a vital part of their everyday life. Funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada's Healthy Canadians and Communities Fund (HCCF), the innovative project aims at encouraging people to embrace the outdoors and is poised to help select equity-deserving communities become greener, healthier places to live. Funding has been received for the project’s design phase. Phase two, the build phase, is still pending for funding.
Communities that have been identified to each receive a ParticiPARK design are Fredericton NB, La Ronge SK, Winnipeg MB, and Brampton ON.
ParticipACTION has partnered with Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds, a leader in the development of natural playgrounds whose mandate is to improve the experiences of kids in playgrounds, to design equitable, low-barrier, and accessible spaces. Carefully crafted incorporating authentic materials found in nature, the sensory-rich designs will provide people of all ages and abilities an opportunity to transform the way they play.
ParticipACTION is excited to work with its partners to develop inclusive physical activity spaces that will enrich communities, decrease isolation, reduce inequities, and increase connections between and across cultures” says Diana Dampier, Senior Director, Projects and Stakeholder Relations, ParticipACTION.
A collaborative community engagement approach between the partners gives community members the opportunity to envision their ideal space. Through fun and interactive events planned for each location, the community’s input becomes an essential component of each project design.
“We are honoured to be the chosen partner of ParticipACTION to design these vital community spaces” says John El-Rehab, CEO, Bienenstock Natural Playgrounds. “With our combined decades-long commitment to connecting people with the benefits of physical activity, these deserving communities will be given the life-changing opportunity to connect with nature, ultimately contributing to better outcomes for their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.”
The City of Brampton is set to receive a design for a future ParticiPARK and will announce the official details at a community event on Saturday, September 23rd at Bramalea Limited Community Park from 10:00am to 2:00pm. The initiative will underscore the City’s commitment to fostering the well-being of its residents and reinforce the importance of promoting a healthy community where everyone, regardless of age or ability, can thrive.
The event, free of charge to anyone attending, invites the community to contribute their ideas to the design of their future ParticiPARK physical activity and recreation hub. Fun activities such as obstacle courses incorporating features found in nature will encourage movement and play. Food will also be provided free to attendees.
“I am thrilled that the City of Brampton is going to have a ParticiPARK in our vibrant community” says Patrick Brown, Mayor, City of Brampton. “Involving the community in the decision about what the park should entail allows them to design a space that works for residents and provides them with the elements they want to see. This outdoor space will serve as a community hub, connecting people to nature and encouraging them to be active in the new space.”
Through the ParticiPARKS project, the partners firmly believe that community members are key collaborators in supporting healthy solutions and that communities across Canada can thrive when they play together in rich, natural, beautiful spaces that reflect their cultural and natural heritage.
By empowering communities to be part of the solution for positive, inclusive change, this project is set to nurture a generation that values and thrives in the great Canadian outdoors.