top of page

Open Space Plan


What is it?

An Open Space Plan provides comprehensive direction for the planning, acquisition, design, development, and maintenance of public open space, which includes natural areas, pathways, sports fields, and other recreational areas. It provides policies, strategies, and overall goals that reflect the community’s current and future needs and wishes for the open space system. It ensures that development and management decisions align with the plan and do not impact the municipality’s vision for their open space network, 

How can municipalities use it?

Municipalities can create an Open Space Plan as a single, comprehensive document that guides municipal decisions surrounding the open space network. As such, it can be a powerful tool to ensure ecosystem benefits are sustained in the municipality, and are not impacted through management or development decisions.

The Open Space Plan takes broad direction from the Municipal Development Plan and other relevant high-level municipal policies. It informs site-specific decisions such as those in area structure plans and development proposals. As well, it provides additional planning and management direction for service areas such as water management, urban forestry management, and urban park planning.

What are the advantages?

Open Space Plans have the following advantages:

  • Ensures that municipal planning and management considers the ecosystem services provided by the open space system

  • Facilitates the maintenance or development of an open space network that provides societal and cultural benefits

  • Helps to preserve a community’s character, aesthetic, and walkability

  • Can resolve conflicts that may arise from competing demand for open space

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. Considerations to be made when creating Open Space Plan includes:

  • Different open space types provide vastly different kinds and  levels of natural infrastructure

  • Must align with higher-order plans and legislation

  • Plan implementation should be evaluated periodically to ensure success and identify areas of improvement

  • Ongoing monitoring and management of the open space network is essential to understanding the sustainability of the network

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

Open Space Plans help to maintain the natural infrastructure system by ensuring lands providing valuable natural infrastructure are set aside and appropriately managed. As well, an Open Space Plan can guide prioritization and future acquisition to foster an effective and connected natural infrastructure system.


A Typology of Urban Green Spaces, Ecosystem Services Provisioning Services and Demands – The report outlines the different types of urban green spaces, ecosystem service provisioning, and demand for green space as part of the Green Surge Project (2013-2017). 

Different Types of Open Spaces and Their Importance to Exurban Homeowners – This study investigated how exurban home-buying choices may be related to having open space nearby, and measured homeowners’ relative preferences for seven different types of open spaces characterized by different ecosystem services.

Town of Canmore Open Space and Trails Plan – Canmore’s Open Space and Trails Plan provides comprehensive direction for the open space and trail system, taking into consideration current and future needs of residents, visitors, and wildlife.

City of Calgary Open Space Plan – Calgary’s Open Space Plan provides a single, comprehensive source of policy that guides the City's acquisition, development, and use of open space.

Town of High River Open Space Plan – High River’s Open Space Plan is a single, comprehensive source of policy on open space, and guides the Town’s acquisition, development, and use of open space. It also includes details on biophysical assessment of the town, in relation to open space planning.

City of Airdrie Great Places – Airdrie’s Great Places Plan provides a comprehensive and integrated policy on open space, and an overall philosophy for planning environments that contribute to the building of a Great City.

Town of Cochrane Parks and Open Space Bylaw – Cochrane established an Open Space Bylaw to exercise and control the use of parks and open space operated for the benefit of the citizens of the Town.

Municipal Powers, Land Use Planning, and the Environment: Understanding the Public’s Role – Created by the Environmental Law Centre, this paper explores a municipality’s role in the regulation and management of natural areas including wetlands, air and water quality, toxic substances, redevelopment of contaminated lands, water conservation, wildlife, and other aspects of the environment within the municipality. The report includes a section on zoning for environmental protection and open-space conservation.

Ottawa Greenspace Master Plan: Strategies for Ottawa’s Urban Greenspaces - The purpose of this document is to express Council’s vision for greenspace in the urban area and set policies for how this vision can be pursued. As the city grows, there is to be an adequate supply of greenspace, accessible to all residents. It will be high quality and sustainable and linked to allow for movement through green corridors. This document includes information on how open space is incorporated into the Greenspace Master Plan.

Our BiodiverseCity: Calgary’s 10-year Biodiversity Strategic Plan – This plan is based on principles for the protection, development and management of Calgary Parks and ecosystems in support of biodiversity. The plan aims to provide a framework for City staff to foster more resilient, biologically diverse open space and neighbourhoods that support positive outcomes for Calgarians, visitors, wildlife and plant communities.

City of Wanneroo Public Open Space Policy – Wanneroo, Australia’s Public Open Space Policy.

Town of Okotoks Open Spaces and Recreation Facilities Bylaw – This document is the Town of Okotoks, Alberta’s Open Spaces and Recreation Facilities Bylaw.

London, Ontario Open Space Zone – This document is London, Ontario’s open space zoning plan, and includes conservation lands within the zoning.

Town of Strathmore: Quality of Life Master Plan – The town of Strathmore, Alberta’s Quality of Life Master Plan includes open space planning, and encourages preservation of wetlands and natural areas as well as the use of Environmental Reserve.

Breathe: Edmonton’s Green Network Strategy – Edmonton's 30-year strategy to make sure that as the city grows, each neighbourhood will be supported by a network of open space.

Did we miss something?

If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!

Thanks for helping us out!

bottom of page