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Park Designations


What is it?

A Park Designation is given to an area for the purpose of recreation, environmental conservation, urban design, and/or cemeteries. Parks can include manicured parks and sports facilities, natural environment parks, urban forest, pathways, and environmental reserve land. The type of park determines the management practices most appropriate (e.g., natural area parks will not be mowed while manicured spaces would be). However, all designated parks help to alleviate intense land use pressure on the natural infrastructure system.

How can municipalities use it?

Municipalities can use Park Designations to protect open space from development and preserve the natural infrastructure system. For example, land may be acquired through municipal and environmental reserve or through direct purchase on an opportunity basis and can then be designated by a municipality as a park. Municipalities can ensure sustainable management of park land through Municipal Development Plan clauses, council-approved policies, and/or a dedicated open space or parks policy. These policies guide the creation of individual park management plans, and the park use and management provisions within statutory plans such as Area Redevelopment Plans and Area Structure Plans. As well, land use amendments can shape park locations, and development permits and agreements can shape policy surrounding parks on a site-specific basis.

What are the advantages?

There are many advantages associated with Park Designations, including:

  • Provides wildlife habitat and habitat connectivity

  • Provides natural infrastructure system benefits, such as clean air and water, and flood mitigation

  • Provides opportunities for community members to recreate in ecologically-friendly ways

  • Fosters a sense of place and quality of life

What should you watch out for?

No tool is a silver bullet. The following should be considered regarding Park Designations:

  • May be conflicting or competing demands for use of parks

  • Are limited options for municipalities to obtain and protect park land on developable lands

  • Recreational activity can be detrimental to ecologically valuable features

How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?

Park Designations can help to maintain the natural infrastructure system through protecting assets like forests and wetlands from development. Parks connect the natural infrastructure system, ensuring that functions such as habitat linkage and stormwater storage, and benefits such as flood mitigation and sense of place are maintained.


City of Calgary Open Space Plan – Calgary's Open Space Plan is a comprehensive document that sets direction and gives specifics to open space and parkland development and management.

Cootes to Escarpment Park System: Land Securement Strategy – Several land securement tools are described for their contribution to protection of the important natural region known as ‘Cootes to Escarpment’ in southern Ontario.

Halton Region Greenlands Securement Strategy – Developed by the Regional Municipality of Halton, this strategy is intended to bring together land securement partners, funding partners and others within the Region to work towards the goal of securing further greenlands. Parks are included within their securement strategy.

Municipal Powers, Land Use Planning, and the Environment: Understanding the Public’s Role – Municipalities exercise a broad range of powers that have significant direct and indirect impacts on the environment. This document, created by the Environmental Law Centre, considers the role of parks.

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, and it discusses the role that parks designations can play when conserving land for urban greenspace.

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!

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