The City of Saskatoon has more than 300 parks and green spaces, an abundance that we are appreciating even more than usual during COVID times. These places are our shared “outdoor living rooms.” What does your neighbourhood’s public spaces say about where you live? And how could we improve our parks and natural areas to truly be places of connection – to ourselves, to others, and to nature?
When you walk through your neighbourhood park, what comes to mind? Are you at peace? Do you feel grateful for what you have? Or maybe you notice deficiencies, neglect, or needed improvements. What are the best things about the green spaces in your area? And what needs further examination? Who do you see there? Just as importantly, who do you not see? Similarly, what species are sharing the space with you, and which are not?
Our neighbourhood parks, green spaces, and natural areas are extensions of our homes. They can be places of reflection, friendship, and connection, where creative landscaping, adequate space, and community amenities enrich the space. They can be places of nature and wildlife, where you feel at one with your surroundings. They can be places of privilege and exclusion, where only some are truly welcome and safe. They can be places of neglect and disinterest, where the potential far outweighs the reality. Parks are not made equal. They can perpetuate inequities or bring people together (or do a complicated mix of both).
The City of Saskatoon’s Green Infrastructure Strategy shows just how “under-greened” some of our neighbourhoods are. Some neighbourhoods have less than 1.5% green space; others have over 15%. While this discrepancy is to be expected in a way — due to the age, location, and infrastructure of each unique neighbourhood — if we are to consider green space an equity issue, should we not be trying to “level the playing field” by ensuring all residents in Saskatoon have similar amounts of green space, qualities of green space, and access to green space? (Side note: rather than literally leveling our playing fields, perhaps we should instead be thinking about transforming some of our level, turfed areas into natural, rolling, functioning ecosystems).
Going hand-in-hand with the amount, quality, and accessibility of our green spaces are the other types of land uses in our neighbourhoods. For example, some neighbourhoods back onto their greenspaces, which weave throughout their communities. Homes and businesses surround these car-free, safe, protected, and well-cared-for parks. Other areas have disjointed green spaces, which are unconnected, hard to get to, and neglected. Further, some areas have more abandoned buildings, vacant lots, and contaminated sites than green space. All these factors play into the feel of a community and impact how (and if) a community can gather and connect.
South end Saskatoon – Photo by Cathleen Mewis
There are so many questions to consider as we contemplate the value and meaning of our communities. Can we reignite our appreciation for the nature in our city, not only by appreciating what is, but what was? For example, what are the histories of our outdoor places? What (and who) was there before the park, before the city? And can some of this knowledge be rediscovered?
So please join us as we head out on a very close-to-home adventure by exploring our neighbourhood parks and by visiting places that we have never experienced before. Then share your thoughts and photos with us on social media. (Using the hashtag #naturecitycontest will enter you for prizes!)
Small Swale – Photo by Meghan Mickelson
Water treatment Plant – Photo by Shawna Dykes
Interested in seeing a list of green spaces in our city? Our friend has put together this amazing list!
Forestry Farm – Photo by Cathleen Mewis
Meewasin Trail – Photo by Meghan Mickelson