For over 30 years now I have had the opportunity to work with a wide variety of product and equipment suppliers to our parks and green infrastructure sector. I have seen trends in products come and go as companies try very hard to come up with new and innovative ways to help conduct our work in a safe, efficient manner with a strong environmental conscience.
As our parks and living green infrastructure become much more popular for leisure, active recreation, fitness and exploring nature in its entire splendor, it is essential that we maintain a high level of respect for its value to our health and well-being. In Ontario alone approximately 329 Ontario parks are being visited by an estimated 10 million people a year and that does not include all the users of the thousands of municipal parks within the 444 municipalities in Ontario. Now do the math and you will find that across Canada over 100 million people are counting on us to provide them with an educational, safe leisurely experience. People from all over the world come to Canada to see our parks systems at work.
I am sure you can now begin to see the importance of keeping these outdoor classrooms, fitness stations, trails, beaches, sports fields and passive areas well maintained and in a safe condition for use. Having grown up on a farm myself, I had many chances to experience nature through walks in the forest, along the river and in the open fields. All this was readily available to me and my brothers and sisters; however that is not the case for most families and or children growing up today. Often the park which is freely accessible to all users is the place where our children see their first worm, fish, fox, deer, birds, and have a chance to explore far beyond their backyard or balcony. It is for this reason that we must continue to understand, appreciate and support all partners who participate in sustaining this treasured natural resource.
We here at Ontario Parks Association (OPA) applaud the efforts of the many volunteers and businesses who help keep these green open spaces clean and healthy. One of our great partners has been STIHL Canada who has invested millions of dollars over many years to not only meet, but exceed industry noise and fuel emission standards. Not only has their research and technology shown great commitment to the environmental health in emission standards, they have been able to incorporate ergonomic design principles into all their products. Thus, increasing user comfort, productivity while reducing costly injuries due to repetitive strain, prolonged use and poorly balanced equipment.
As OPA travels the province visiting municipalities, daycares, conservation authorities, campgrounds, cemeteries, waterfronts, etc., I see increased demands for top quality parks maintenance practices. At the same time, I see requests to limit or reduce budgets on equipment and supplies, including reductions in staffing as well. The only way our parks staff can succeed in meeting these increased demands is by taking advantage of quality products supplied by reputable and visionary industry leaders who value our parks, environment and most of all, the residents of this country who depend on us to make visiting our parks an enjoyable experience. We at OPA are proud to partner with STIHL as we recognize and appreciate their commitment to Protecting Tomorrow Today.
by Paul Ronan
Executive Director, Ontario Parks Association