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Prince Albert National Park

2011 Round Table

What We Heard: Summary Report
Prince Albert National Park Annual Round Table
November 17, 2011, Saskatoon, SK - Parktown Hotel

Table of Contents

About the Annual Round Table

What We Said:

What We Heard: Participants’ Comments

  1. Discussion #1: Youth Engagement
  2. Discussion #2: Management of Prince Albert National Park’s Trail System
  3. Discussion #3: Building a Better Annual Round Table

Next Steps: Parks Canada’s Commitment

About the Annual Round Table

Prince Albert National Park hosted its first Annual Round Table on November 17th, 2011. The Round Table brought together a broad base of park stakeholders with local, regional and national perspectives and expertise. Parks Canada, Prince Albert National Park’s purpose was to report on the implementation of the park’s management plan and to seek insights on achieving the management plan’s objectives, addressing both challenges and potential opportunities. This advisory process emerges from a national corporate objective for Parks Canada Agency and is a priority action in the Prince Albert National Park Management Plan. A Round Table will be scheduled annually.

Key park stakeholders and representatives of priority communities of interest were invited to participate in this forum. While input was sought and is highly valued, it is recognized that participants are informal representatives of their sectors. The Round Table discussions do not constitute formal consultation, but rather a seeking of feedback and insights. The Round Table that will be held during the fall of 2012 will report on how these inputs informed decisions on the implementation of the management plan.

The objectives of the 2011 Annual Round Table were to:

  • Present a progress update on the status of implementation of the Prince Albert National Park Management Plan
  • To gather stakeholders’ insights into the development of a park advisory process with an annual Round Table meeting
  • To gather stakeholders’ advice and input regarding two current issues facing Prince Albert National Park.

This report is a summary of the discussions that took place, followed by a statement of Parks Canada’s next steps in applying the feedback that was received to the challenges of managing Prince Albert National Park.

What we said:

Superintendent’s Report on the State of Prince Albert National Park

Following are highlights from the report provided by Alan Fehr, Superintendent of Prince albert National Park, on the current status of park priorities identified in the park’s management plan.

Highlights and achievements:

The park ecosystem: Prince Albert National Park’s ecosystem is stable and considered to be in good health. Park services have been improving, with many programs updated, upgraded or actively under review. The park has been working to improve communications and relationships with stakeholders including First Nations and Métis organizations and communities.

Assets: Considerable improvements to important park assets were made as a result of investments from Canada’s Economic Action Plan and other supplementary funding envelopes. Infrastructure investments in Waskesiu alone amounted to more than $16 million between 2009 and 2011.

Tourism promotion: Efforts to market and promote the region have been significantly enhanced by the creation of the Waskesiu Wilderness Region Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), co-founded by Parks Canada. By pooling their expertise and resources, attractions and destinations in and around Prince Albert National Park are working collaboratively through the DMO to promote visitation to the region.

Stakeholder relations and co-operative activities: Park staff work with external organizations on a range of initiatives. They include the Waskesiu Community Council, Waskesiu Foundation, Friends of the Park, Sturgeon River Bison Stewards, Laval University, University of Saskatchewan, DMO, First Nations and Métis organizations, and others. The development of the park advisory process will more closely engage the park’s stakeholders in the management of the park.

First Nations and Métis relationships: Park staff continue to meet with Aboriginal organizations to explore common interests in learning about, commemorating and celebrating First Nations and Métis culture in the park. The Paspiwin Cultural Heritage Site agreement has led to initiatives with First Nations and Métis and an on-site school field trip was piloted in the fall of 2011. The park celebrates National Aboriginal Day each year, offers interpretive programming that introduces visitors to Aboriginal themes and stories, and has hosted a community feast for local Aboriginal communities in the past two years.

Concerns and challenges:

Assets: Managing the park’s assets is a major component of park management. $1M is available annually for maintenance of the park’s assets, whose replacement value is approximately $350 million. Park infrastructure is aging and this amount is well below the accepted industry standard of an annual reinvestment target of 2% of the replacement value of an asset base.

Ecological concerns: While the park’s ecological health is good, the woodland caribou population and Crean Lake lake trout populations are low.

Area management highlights:

Spruce River and the Scenic Highway: The Height of Land Tower viewscape was restored. Sandy Lake will be targeted for improvements and enhancements as the central hub of activities in the south end of the park.

The West Side: Reconnecting Grasslands, Bison and People: This program, funded through a national initiative, has enabled the upgrading of access to and facilities on the park’s West Side, as well as work to improve ecological indicators including grasslands. The park is participating, with other area stakeholders, in the development of a regional management plan for the free-ranging bison population living in and around the West Side.

What we heard:

Participants’ Feedback on Key Issues

After a morning of presentations, three facilitated discussions were held. The discussions were intended to focus on current issues facing Prince Albert National Park. Each session sought guidance and insights on a particular issue. Following are key points made by participants.

Discussion #1- Youth Engagement

The first issue addressed was youth engagement. National surveys indicate that youth (age 18-30) are less likely than other Canadians to be aware of or have visited a national park. What can we be doing in Prince Albert National Park to ensure that national parks are relevant to youth? The group was asked to consider the following questions:

  1. What principles should guide the work of strategy development?
  2. What should Prince Albert National Park focus their energies on?
  3. As a strategy is designed, what should the priorities be?
  4. What should be the outcomes of a youth engagement strategy?

Following is a summary of the key themes raised during the discussion:

  • It’s a mistake to assume that people of a common age share common interests. Youth are at a different stage in their lives, may not have the financial means to visit parks and may have other, higher priority needs.
  • Reference was made to “wilderness deficit disorder” – the need for youth and adults to “experience what it feels like to be in nature.” National parks have a role in this need.
  • A need and opportunity was identified to work with schools and colleges who have the leadership in education. People growing up in Saskatchewan should know more about the province’s two national parks.
  • It was pointed out that First Nations populations have a high youth population.
  • Affordability of family visits to the park, and the perception of distance to and remoteness of the park were identified as barriers
  • Non-traditional park activities (ziplining as an example) may draw young audiences to the park. We have to be willing to accept and be open to the ways young audiences would like to experience the park and not always define the experience for them.
  • Recreational programs for youth in Waskesiu would focus them on the community and the park.
  • Experiential learning for youth was also recommended, which could take the form of internships, training programs, volunteerism, documenting of oral histories, experiential arts, and other stewardship and engagement activities. Youth today are seeking meaning in their lives and want to contribute.
  • The need was identified to build on existing curriculum.
  • The need to use social media and virtual communications effectively was identified by many.
  • Ask youth what they want from a relationship with national parks. Create a youth advisory council and involve First Nations, Métis and non-Aboriginal youth.
  • Aboriginal people and youth, are often “disinvited” by the rules, regulations and limitations on their experience. The prominence given to the Grey Owl story in the park disinvites Aboriginal people.
  • Economic factors are a barrier to youth new Canadians visiting; transportation to the park is an issue. Partnerships may help address barriers.
Discussion #2- Management of Prince Albert National Park’s Trail System

This session addressed the park’s trail system. Park staff provided a brief presentation to set the context for discussion. This was followed by a break-out session called world café where the participants were divided into four groups that rotated through four stations that allowed each group to have the chance to discuss four specific questions related to the issue. At each station the group had a set amount of time to discuss a question and comments were captured by a scribe. Once all groups had rotated between the stations, the discussions were summarized by the four scribes and the whole group engaged in a general discussion.

The questions posed to the group follow, along with a summary of the discussion at each station.

  1. Who does Parks Canada need to consult with regarding the long-term trail offer (including associated facilities e.g. campgrounds)?
    - A comprehensive list was developed including frequent and local trail users; biologists; clubs and organizations; First Nations and Métis; other and adjacent parks; entrepreneurs and in particular businesses that use the trails and that are frequent users.
    - Equestrians in particular were named as a group that should be consulted; it was felt that recent trail evaluations did not adequately take the equestrian viewpoint into account.
  2. How should Parks Canada communicate decisions regarding the interim and long-term trail plans?
    - Online trail reports could be used to provide more information and request feedback; social media would be valuable if they included a way for people to provide feedback.
    - Ensure that business owners have the information as they can communicate directly to their clients.
    - Trailhead information would be useful as well.
  3. With changing demographics, what should Parks Canada consider in realigning the trail offer?
    - Participants suggested that a variety of people with differing abilities and from multiple ethnicities are using the park. Trail information should be more specific so that people without a lot of experience know what to expect, including posted distances and points of interest; accessibility; appropriate modes (mountain bike, equestrian, ski/snowshoe).
    - Rest stops should be incorporated and washrooms considered.
    - The DMO slogan “Where adventure begins” was cited.
    - Connect park trails across the park boundaries, increasing entranceways to the park; reduce intimidation factor of having the park right next door.
  4. Do you use trails?
    a) Have you hiked/biked/skied/ridden a horse on a trail in the national park in the last two years?
    b) Have you used a trail anywhere else in the last two years?
    c) What do you think are the most important features of a trail or network of trails?

Many participants were also trail users.

  • Comments and suggestions included a recommendation that trails connect with trails outside of the park.
  • Consideration could be given to value-added components that provide a goal for the hiking experience: these could include teepees or yurts; events; art in the woods; historical stopping places; and other destinations.
  • Signage should be improved and history and interpretation could be highlighted using smart phone apps.
  • The park should also highlight the presence of trails and build the idea of trails as a key component of the national park experience.
  • Trail assessments should involve the locals that use them- outside expertise is valuable but should be mitigated with local experience.
  • Some participants were unaware of the extent of the park’s trail system and commented on the high maintenance requirements, recommending a focused effort that would “do a really good job of some trails.”
Discussion #3: Building a Better Annual Round Table

This was the third discussion in the workshop that focused on current issues facing Prince Albert National Park. The goal was to seek additional guidance to help build a better Round Table process. The four questions and a summary of the comments and feedback follow.

  1. What was the value of your involvement today?
    Comments received acknowledged the value of the learning experience for participants and for Parks Canada. Some participants were unaware of the range and variety of uses made of the national park by other participants (hiking, equestrian, mountain biking, backpacking, etc.) A comment was made that the park was showing respect to different perspectives by hosting the Round Table.
  2. What are some effective ways that Prince Albert National Park can determine the best agenda topics?
    Participants generally suggested that Parks Canada ask questions for which it is seeking answers. A comment was made that it was interesting to hear what is of concern to the Parks Canada and what issues are driving decision making. Participants would like to learn about the issues under discussion in advance of the Round Table. They could also be asked what their interests are, or ensure that there is an opportunity for participants to ask questions and receive responses.
  3. What are some effective ways that Prince Albert National Park can report back to stakeholders and the public?
    Participants suggested Parks Canada use existing communications methods such as the annual newsletter and park website. All participants should also be kept informed. The next Round Table should include a report on how this feedback was utilized.
  4. Your advice to Prince Albert National Park staff as they build an advisory process for a round table?
    An observation was made that there have been strained relationships in the past, that Prince Albert National Park’s efforts at consultation are valued. Participants asked to be kept informed during the year and that they be consulted on the selection of at least some of the issues. It was considered valuable for the park to consult with a range of provincial organizations, and that Parks Canada should continue to work to involve Aboriginal peoples. The group should also include new Canadians and business owners, and does not need to be a fixed list from year to year. Group members will communicate back to their organizations, making the forum a useful way to communicate with stakeholders. It was suggested that May or September would be better times for people to travel. Finally a comment was made that good communication helps maintain good relations during the hard times.

Next steps: Parks Canada’s Commitment

Parks Canada commits to the following next steps in considering the advice, recommendations and insights received from the participants in the 2011 Round Table:

  1. Provide the proceedings to all participants, including the Summary Report, Superintendent’s Report, and verbatim comments from participants.
  2. Publish the Summary Report of the 2011 Round Table on Prince Albert National Park’s website.
  3. Provide an overview of the process and key recommendations in the park’s spring newsletter.
  4. Provide further information on the process in the park’s annual open house (formerly called the Prince Albert National Park AGM), scheduled to be held in Waskesiu on Thursday, July 19th.
  5. Prior to the 2012 Round Table, circulate a list of suggested discussion topics to all participants (August 2012).
  6. Prince Albert National Park is commencing a review of its management plan and is preparing a comprehensive State of the Park Report. This report, when approved, will be provided to all participants. Participants, and the public, will also be advised of progress in the management plan review.
  7. The 2012 Annual Round Table is scheduled for September 27th in Saskatoon.