New Perspectives on Parks

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Event Date: Oct 29 2010 – Oct 30 2010
City: Saskatoon, SK
Country: Canada
Primary Contact Name: Keith Carlson
Contact Email:
Submission Deadline: Jul 30 2010

Canadian national, provincial and local/regional parks are of global significance. Combined, they cover over 599,000 km2 (an area roughly twice the size of Germany, or equivalent to Ukraine). And yet, there exists a national park myopia that has caused the more than 300,000km2 of Canadian provincial and local/regional parks to remain largely ignored.

This October 29th and 30th, 2010, Keith Carlson and Jonathan Clapperton will be hosting a symposium at the University of Saskatchewan with funding from the Network in Canadian History and Environment (NiCHE) on the history of provincial and local parks (including non-architectural heritage sites that are “natural,” however defined).
This symposium seeks to encourage original research on Canadian provincial and local/regional parks, and to foster dialogue with the existing scholarship on Canadian national parks and the international scholarship on state/provincial and local/regional parks in the USA and elsewhere.

In particular, we seek to:

  • elucidate the intersections of provincial, local, and national park histories within a global context,
  • to communicate the continuities and discontinuities between the parks creators’ intentions and the lived reality of parks,
  • and to illustrate any hegemonic cultural assumptions that lie behind parks and the impact these have for indigenous people and recent immigrants who may or may not share the assumptions of mainstream society.
  • We especially encourage applications that:

place Canadian provincial and local/regional parks within the context of trans-national comparisons, and those that,
account for long-term ecological change.

Archived Presentations

NiCHE has archived 8 presentations from this event.

Citation: Alexander, Steve. “Shifting Landscapes and the Creation of Gatineau Park during the Great Depression” Historical and Global Perspectives on Provincial, Local & Regional Parks in Canada. 29 October 2010.
Bio: Steve Alexander is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Environmental Studies at Antioch University New England.
Abstract: Gazing northwest from Parliament Hill in the Canadian capital city of Ottawa, the rolling forested landscape of Gatineau Park stretches as far as the eye can see out beyond the city of Gatineau along the horizon. Only minutes from the footsteps of the capital, Gatineau Park and its associated forested landscape has been a source of inspiration, recreation and rejuvenation for both capital residents and visitors alike since the beginning of the twentieth century. However, since it’s establishment and creation in 1938, it has also been the source of much controversy. Current controversial issues vary from parkland ownership, shifting park boundaries and its status as a federal but non-national park to private in-holdings, its stewardship by the National Capital Commission and the Park’s initial establishment. While there is much to be explored in each and every one of these issues aforementioned, it is the last, the park’s initial establishment, which Alexander focuses upon here. The purpose of this presentation is to explore the role and influence of the Great Depression on the establishment of Gatineau Park. In some respects, Gatineau Park was born out of unemployment. Its birth aided by the climate of the Great Depression, its associated unemployment and the turn of events directly propelled by it. More specifically Alexander proposes that extensive deforestation in the Gatineau Hills fuelled by unemployment and the framing of the Gatineau Parkway Project as an unemployment relief effort were both crucial to the formalization of Gatineau Park finally occurring and its creation, albeit in an embryonic form.
Steve Alexander Slides

Citation: Bos, Brittney Anne. “Cultural Performances in Controlled Landscapes: An Examination of Turn of the Century Urban Parks in Ottawa” Historical and Global Perspectives on Provincial, Local & Regional Parks in Canada. 29 October 2010.
Bio: Brittney Anne Bos is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at Queen’s University.
Abstract: In the late 19th century, urban parks emerged throughout the Western world in correspondence with the development of Picturesque ideals within increasing industrialized societies. This longing for rural and natural life within new cities was also employed for the purposes of moral and social control. Coupled with the establishment of Canada’s first national parks, turn of the century urban landscapes were embedded with Victorian ideologies regarding the natural world but applied to the Canadian context. A combination of the traditional controlled English landscape and the characteristically ‘untamed’ Canadian wilderness, early urban parks were a ‘natural’ manifestation of dominant cultural ideologies. Within these spaces, cultural performances of class, gender and race were reinforced by their demonstrations on a public scale.

This presentation examines the creation of urban parks in Ottawa at the turn of the century and their embodiment of cultural ideologies present at the time of their creation and throughout their evolution. Using Strathcona, Dundonald, and Minto Parks as local Ottawa examples, this presentation demonstrates the cultural ideologies embedded within the establishment of early urban parks in Canada. All established at the turn of the century, currently municipally administered and recognized for their historic importance, these three urban parks serve as excellent examples of the combination of natural and heritage resources that embody ideas of their own time period. However, these spaces are not static and therefore underwent a variety of changes in terms of administration, usage and importance within the urban landscape. This presentation focuses on the original creator’s cultural intentions in the formation of these spaces, but nonetheless analyzes the evolution of urban parks in recognition of changing cultural ideas.
Brittney Anne Bos Slides

Citation: Clapperton, Jon. “Who Opposes Parks, After All?’ Sliammon First Nation, BC Parks, and Settler Conservation” Historical and Global Perspectives on Provincial, Local & Regional Parks in Canada. 29 October 2010.
Bio: Jonathan Clapperton is a PhD Candidate in the Department of History at the University of Saskatchewan.
Abstract: When Captain George Vancouver visited the area just north of present-day Powell River, British Columbia in 1792, he named it Desolation Sound. He noted the multitude of Native settlements, almost all “abandoned,” amongst a wilderness that “afforded not a single prospect that was pleasing to the eye….” Move forward 170 years, however, and non-Native tourists to Desolation Sound wrote much the same about the absence of a human presence on the landscape and its pristine condition, though they appraised its worth quite differently. In fact, the main scene desolate to local eyes was the increasing number of yachts ruining the area’s “natural” and “wild” beauty. After years of public recommendations and departmental economic studies, British Columbia’s government created Desolation Sound Marine Park as well as smaller “satellite” parks nearby in 1973 to preserve the area, prevent the further privatization of its shores, and to capitalize on a growing tourist market. Integral to both these narratives was the cultural construction of a landscape that was seen much differently from its original Coast Salish – in this instance Sliammon (Tla’amin) – inhabitants.

Against this backdrop, my presentation explores the contested histories of the construction of human and environmental place in this ongoing, academically ignored, “contact zone.” Viewscapes of Desolation Sound represent a microcosm of power relations in flux between competing colonial and subaltern cultural structures. These competitions turned on controlling a master discourse of what constituted a “desirable desolation.” For BC Parks and other conservationists, “desolation narratives” were a means by which to perpetuate and justify a dominant and paternal relationship to the area’s First Nations. BC Parks and conservationists argued that the presence of Aboriginal people “using” the environment for resource extraction or settlement despoiled it, and, more importantly, ruined visitors’ experiences and expectations of an untouched, unclaimed wilderness; such use threatened to deconstruct Desolation Sound and satellite parks as a “desirable desolation.” For the Sliammon, their own narratives of desolation-making provided a means for critiquing unequal power relations. According to local First Nations, park boundaries, infrastructure and historical narratives participated in a colonial project that turned their homeland into a different sort of desolation, one infrequently visited by the place’s indigenous inhabitants yet overcrowded by – and thus despoiled by – outsiders. For the Sliammon, parks and conservationists made Desolation Sound an “undesirable desolation.” Both the above groups thus shared the perception that the presence of the “Other” ruined the environment, while both also were secure in their belief that their own presence in Desolation Sound was fitting rather than ruinous.
Jon Clapperton Slides

Citation: Evans, Stirling. “Badlands and Bones: Locating Dinosaur Provincial Park, Alberta, within a Transnational History of North American Badlands” Historical and Global Perspectives on Provincial, Local & Regional Parks in Canada. 29 October 2010.
Bio: Stirling Evans is a Professor and the Louise Welsh Chair in Southern Plains and Borderlands History, in the Department of History at the University of Oklahoma.
Abstract: “Badlands and Bones” tracks the environmental and conservation history of Alberta’s Dinosaur Provincial Park. Preservation of this place was unique as one of the first efforts to recognize the scenic beauty of badlands—landscapes created by millions of years of erosion and characterized by prairie grasslands, buttes and gullies, hoo-doos, caprocks, and spectacular colours in the strata of eroded hillsides. More unique is that DPP’s creation was meant to preserve the unequalled paleontological resources of the region. It is there where more dinosaur fossils have been discovered in one place than anywhere else on earth. Thus, the government of Alberta drew on the expert testimony of scientists, archaeologists, geologists, fossil hunters, and rock hounds to establish this park in 1955. Indeed, geology, paleontology, and conservation all fused in this park to protect an area so unique that UNESCO recognized it as a World Heritage Site in 1979.

Part of the park’s history revolves around the way it has been interpreted. Drawing from the rich records of its early years (preserved in the Provincial Archives of Alberta and at the Glenbow Museum Archives), “Badlands and Bones” illustrates how the park became a popular tourist destination replete with ranger-guided tours, amphitheatre presentations, and children’s activities.

Finally, DPP is part of a larger, transnational system of grassland and desert badlands that stretch from northern Mexico to the Prairie Provinces. This presentation will locate DPP among over seventy identified badlands areas (preserved in a variety of different methods) in the North American West. How the park is unique, and perhaps how it is not compared to its U.S. counterparts, will be part of the focus of the paper.

Citation: Kheraj, Sean. “Demonstration Wildlife: Negotiating the Animal Landscape of Vancouver’s Stanley Park, 1888-1996” Historical and Global Perspectives on Provincial, Local & Regional Parks in Canada. 29 October 2010.
Bio: Sean Kheraj is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Humanities at Mount Royal University.
Abstract: During the twentieth century, Canadians were most likely to encounter wild animals in cities. Canadian historians often look to the study of rural wildlife in national parks to better understand our relationship with nature because, in many ways, wildlife has become emblematic of the country. From the portrait of a beaver on the five-cent coin to the inflatable moose that whimsically hovered over the audience in BC Place during the closing ceremonies of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, rural wildlife has come to represent a significant aspect of Canada’s national identity. Yet most Canadians in the past century have experienced wild animals in cities rather than distant rural places.

This presentation examines the role of prominent landscape urban parks and zoos in the construction and presentation of wildlife in Western Canada. What Vancouverites encountered in Stanley Park for most of its history was a demonstration of national nature through the composition and display of human-modified animal landscapes. The Vancouver Park Board sought to improve the landscape of Stanley Park not only by altering the flora but also the fauna of the peninsula. Through the introduction and propagation of new species and the construction of an elaborate park zoo, the board strove to enhance the nature experience for urban park-goers by offering samples of authentic wildlife encounters. Over the course of the late nineteenth- and early twentieth-centuries Stanley Park emerged as a platform for the presentation of regional, national, and international nature as squirrels, swans, beaver, bison, and even polar bears inhabited the park to entertain millions of human spectators.

The creation of this animal landscape, of course, was not solely dictated by the guiding hand of the Park Board. Instead, the animal landscape of Stanley Park was built and re-built over time through a negotiation of competing and complementary human and non-human factors. Each anthropogenic modification of the environment of Stanley Park produced new niches or opportunities for animals to inhabit and exploit that environment in ways that often contradicted the will of the elected Park Board and its staff. The behaviour of these animals influenced Park Board decisions and placed material limits on humanity’s ability to transform the environment of Stanley Park.
Sean Kheraj Slides

Citation: Larson, Zeb. “Silver Falls State Park and the Early Environmental Movement.” Historical and Global Perspectives on Provincial, Local & Regional Parks in Canada. 29 October 2010.
Bio: Zeb Larson is a graduate of Lewis of Clark College and a former Historian Intern for the National Park Service.
Abstract: This presentation traces the history of Silver Falls State Park, located outside of Silverton, Oregon. Silver Falls began as a state park that was under the supervision of the Oregon Highway Commission beginning in 1933. However, the severity of the Great Depression led to the site being taken over by the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration as a make-work project. The site became one of the largest make-work projects done in the state, with the CCC camp operated for seven years. Through the assistance of these agencies, the size of the site was vastly increased, and Silver Falls is the largest state park in Oregon today.

Silver Falls is representative of the increased environmental awareness in the United States and the effort made to preserve land and encourage wilderness recreation. Before the site was adopted as a state park, the area had been heavily logged and had been rejected as a prospective national park because it had been deemed “too developed.” As it was transformed into a state park, there was an effort made to rehabilitate the landscape by replanting trees. The site was developed in such a way as to encourage tourism and recreation while simultaneously integrating the developments into the landscape. The emphasis on recreation and nature enjoyment at Silver Falls was representative of the value that nature held for people. Extraordinary and beautiful sites were prized for the mental and physical benefits they provided to people.
Zeb Larson Slides

Bio: Jeff Slack in an MA student in the Department of History at the University of Northern British Columbia.
Abstract: During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries profoundly new ways of thinking about and acting within the natural world emerged throughout North America. Previous environmental value systems that viewed the natural world as an inexhaustible storehouse of resources waiting to be exploited increasingly gave way to anxieties about the loss of natural landscapes whose potential benefits to society were only beginning to be understood and appreciated. New relationships, many came to believe, would have to be forged between nature and humankind.

If anything, such cultural change was especially rapid on the British Columbia coast. Rapid urbanization beginning around the turn of the twentieth century completely altered the region’s human geography. Over the next four decades associated socio-cultural change led many local residents to view their natural surroundings, the mountain wilderness in particular, in a new light. No longer a regrettable impediment to progress, the Coast Mountains came to be seen as a still-wild, but now benign and “pure” landscape. The “discovery” of the territory that soon became Garibaldi Provincial Park was a major catalyst and venue for the popularization of these new perspectives.

An emerging mountaineering community successfully campaigned for the preservation of the Garibaldi landscape in its pristine state. Newspapers and politicians soon joined their chorus, proclaiming that mountain landscapes such as Garibaldi could foster the development of mass recreational cultures that would be a key contributor to British Columbia’s future physical, economic, and spiritual well-being. These new conceptions of the Coast Mountain landscape remain a dominant paradigm to this day.

Despite this quasi-utopian tone, however, public funding and policy for the park fell short of the expectations of Garibaldi’s many advocates. By examining this discrepancy one can gain a knowledge of the relationship between popular perceptions of landscape with parks policy in interwar Canada.

Citation: Parra, Constanza. “The Vicissitudes of the French Regional Park Model Illustrated Through the Life History of the Morvan” Historical and Global Perspectives on Provincial, Local & Regional Parks in Canada. 29 October 2010.
Bio: Constanza Parra is a Post-doctoral Research Fellow at the University of Luxembourg
Abstract: Unlike the North American early conservationist ideas crystallized in the pioneering foundation of Yellowstone (USA, 1872) and Banff (Canada, 1885) national parks, Europe had to wait until the twentieth century to witness the birth of its first parks (Sweden, 1909). In France, the nature park structure came much later, with a law instituting national parks in 1960 as a compensation for the ecological consequences of post-war industrialisation and rural decline due to population migration to urban centres. This migration movement hollowed out the social tissue, which until then was deeply rooted in French rural areas and tacitly in charge of fragile ecosystems’ monitoring. Thus the need to create a park structure became urgent.

The diversity of biophysical territories on the European continent has led to a progressive differentiation of governance institutions for nature protection, ranging from strict nature reserves to semi-protected areas designed to revitalize depressed rural territories. This presentation examines the French regional park model and illustrates its role and governance distinctiveness through the territorial life history of the Morvan.

French Regional Parks were created in 1967 by the planning agency DATAR as suitable institutions to protect inhabited territories hosting remarkable natural and cultural heritage. From a governance perspective, these parks are considered a sort of exceptional administrative structure because of their pioneering sustainability and decentralised governance objectives. The Morvan was identified very early as an ideal territory to test the liveability of this new park structure.

The presentation is built-up in three steps. In the first step the ‘parc naturel régional’ as an institution embedded in the wider European and French governance systems is presented. The second step looks at the Morvan area within the flow of history, from the heydays of its traditional rural economy in the early twentieth century to the environmental regulation ensuing from the diversity of new social claims made on the Morvan territory. The final section reflects on the future role of regional parks as privileged cradles of socio-environmental innovation and environmental citizenship.

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