Congress Report: 2013 Ifpra World Congress and Alberta Recreation and Park Association (ARPA) Conference

Contributed by Gilbert Briscoe, Honorary Ifpra Member 

The joint Ifpra World Congress and ARPA Conference was held at the Chateau Fairmont Lake Louise in Banff National Park, Alberta, Canada from 24-26 October 2013.

Over 500 delegates registered for the conference, which had the theme of New Horizons: Learning Together. Ifpra was well represented with almost 70 members in attendance and providing 25 percent of the conference presentations.

The conference began on Thursday, 24th October and offered 54 different workshops in all. However it was only possible for delegates to attend a maximum of eight. This resulted in some difficult decisions of which to attend.

What follows is a summary of the workshops and plenary sessions I attended.


Day 1: 

The Benefits of Parks and Open Spaces

  • This workshop was presented by Prof Anders Nielson of the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences and Dr Chris Lemieux, of the University of Waterloo.

Prof Nielson was part of the team research park benefits for Ifpra on the basis that scientific evidence is needed to prove that there are benefits of urban parks and open spaces. The team divided the benefits into eight categories and researched each. a summary of is findings is below. 

1. General Health - It is believed that urban parks causes social cohesion and a sense of community, but there is little scientific evidence of this. There were however, some positive isolated cases of social cohesion.

2. Tourism - Parks are an important reason for visiting cities. There are numerous studies of proving this the world over.

3. House Pricing - People are apparently prepared to pay between five and 30 percent more for houses adjoining urban parks. Urban parks decrease crime rates and noise.

4. Human Health - There are direct health benefits such as reduced obesity, stress and mental health.
5. Water Management - Urban parks and open spaces reduce water runoff, helping to regulate storm water.
6. Air Pollution - Anders stressed the importance of carbon sequestration by trees.
7. Air Cooling - Urban air was not necessarily cleaner, due to parks and open spaces, but certainly cooler.
8. Biodiversity - Birds and other fauna groups were linked to habitat diversity. Species richness increases diversity.

Dr Chris Lemieux also discussed the benefits of parks and open spaces, making the following points:

  • Children now spend half as much time outdoors as children did 20 years ago.
  • Outdoors is very therapeutic.
  • Nature is an important aid to recovery from surgery - the nurses who care for patients  benefit equally from the outdoors.
  • Parks and open spaces also help to reduce childhood stress.
  • Child development also benefits emotionally, socially as well as cognitively from the outdoors.

IFPRA Certification, Competencies and the IFPRA Academy.

The Academy has done a lot of good work in developing global qualifications and accreditation  in parks and recreation in partnership with the Eppley Institute for Parks and Public Lands.

Eppley Institute Executive Director Steve Wolter and Project Manager Austin Hochstetler erased uncertainties on the IFPRA International certification based on competencies. These are undergoing an international validation and will be available early in the New Year. Dr. Christy Boylan,  Chair of the IFPRA Academy, continued the discussion on the work done by the Academy. Members will be hearing a lot more about its progress in the near future.

Cocktail Reception and Opening Ceremonies Banquet

The day's business continued with a cocktail reception followed by an opening ceremonies banquet where Emanuel Trueb, from Basel, Switzerland was inducted as the IFPRA World President, for a three year term of office by the outgoing President, Torgeir Sorensen, of Stavanger, Norway. 

Urban Nature

Emanuel Trueb's induction was followed by an excellent keynote address on Urban Nature, by Adam Bienenstock, an award winning consultant on design and construction of regulatory processes in connecting children to nature in our cities, and Robert Voigt, a professional urban planner, specialising in citizen engagement and urban design. They discussed how to  bring  nature into our built-up  environment.

Day 2:

Effective Leadership for Changing Times

Joe Granger, from the City of Calgary, highlighted the importance of leading and managing people and managing yourself.

He then continued with the following:

  • Lean Management means knowing your customers and their values
  • What can you do to create more value in your life, both at work and at home?
  • Effective communication is essential - this must be a two-way process
  • Are you focussing on adding more value?
  • The secret to success is to build a diverse team


Rebuilding After a Natural Disaster: HANAFU / Canterbury Earthquakes

The mid-morning session dealt with rebuilding after natural disasters.


The first presentation was by Toru Minegishi, a Manager with the Parks and Recreation Foundation of Japan, and centred on the 2011 Earthquake and nuclear disaster in Japan. He shared illustrations from the HaNaFu Project (Harmony with Nature for the Future), which depicted victims and volunteers working together to sow seeds and plant bulbs in the area of devastation. The resulting colour was quite amazing and it demonstrated a people going forward. The 320 ha Michinoku Park is seen as the gateway to the disaster area and it has drawn large numbers of visitors - 76,000 during 2012 - to admire the flowers.

The illustrations also gave recognition to the workers - both victims and volunteers - for their excellent work and their dedication. The HaNaFu Project was the Japanese way of easing the pain of the tragedy.

The second presentation focused on the 2010 and 2011 Christchurch earthquakes.

When one’s attention is drawn to the Christchurch earthquakes, you immediately think of the devastation of the buildings in the city and little thought is given to the surrounding Port Hills parklands.

Derek Roozen, a senior network planner with Christchurch City Council, drew our attention to the hazards associated with regional parks and natural areas following the series of earthquakes in Christchurch during 2010 and 2011, in which 185 were killed.

There are always pressures on such pristine open spaces, such as conflicts of interest, fire, slope instability and vandalism. Earthquakes just increase these pressures.

Much damage was done to tracks and roads as well as increased instability to slopes. Sumner Road, which traverses the Port Hills parkland, is the main overland route between Christchurch and the port of Lyttelton and was badly affected by the earthquakes.

Reopening recreational facilities such as rock climbing areas and hiking trails is a big boost to the local community. To achieve this, the instability of the slopes had to be managed, inter alia, by the removal of high hazard rockfall sources. Communication with the public was essential to improve their safety. However, even without further earthquakes, the danger of rock falls will still exist.


Another Way? The UK Park Trust Model

James McCulloch, CEO of the Nene Park Trust (1725 acres), discussed the Trust's mission to provide visitors with a range of opportunities for relaxation and recreation.

To succeed in creating a Trust (not for profit) the local authority, in this case the Peterborough Development Cooperation in 1988, must:

  • have a political will
  • give up control
  • ensure realistic endowment
  • demonstrate brave thinking; and
  • possess business sense and skills

Fortunately the Nene Park Trust is well endowed with commercial properties that generate sufficient income to manage the park.

Personal Dreams for the Public Good

Manda Wilde, a Parks and Wildlife Ventures Co-ordinator for the Parks and Wildlife Foundation, stressed the following points:

  • a poor plan is better than no plan
  • Make promises that you can keep
  • The community is your best friend

Parks and Recreation Department, Basel, Switzerland

After lunch, Ifpra President Emanuel Trueb spoke about providing playgrounds and community gardens in Basel, Switzerland. He stressed that to be successful playgrounds had to stimulate young children.

The community gardens were allowed to provide limited overnight accommodation, but this aspect was difficult to control being so close to the French border. Emanuel's paper ended the workshop sessions for the day.


Poster sessions

An interesting poster session followed, which included a detailed structure of the Japanese Parks and Recreation Foundation’s Qualified Parks Administrator (QPA) certification system.

Another interesting poster was put up by Alberta's Centre for Active Living which, inter alia, aims at increasing the opportunities for people to become more physically active. Every small step counts.


Trade Show

The day ended with an excellent Trade Show in the Mount Temple Ballroom, displaying an impressive array of products available to the industry. There were 38 stalls in total.

It was difficult to single out any particular stand, but the STOPDED display was most educational in their endeavour to control Dutch Elm Disease. The Dutch Elm Disease in Alberta was not only confined to the exotic beetles and elms in transferring the fungus that causes the disease, but to a native beetle which is also ‘in on the act’ of spreading the same exotic fungus amongst native elms. The banning of summer pruning appears to be an effective way in contributing towards the prevention of the spread of the disease.


Day 3:


Urban Green Structure as a Means of Promoting Public Health and Wellbeing / How Parks and Recreation Spaces Contribute to Health

Torgeir Sorensen, Ifpra's immediate past president and Head of the Parks and Streets Department of the city of Stavanger in Norway, spoke on how urban green structures contribute to the improvement of public health and wellbeing. All citizens of Stavanger live within 500 metres of a green corridor, also referred to as green walk streets.

Little did we know that this would be the last time that Dr David Aldous would deliver a paper to an Ifpra congress. This was to be the last of many stretching over a period of more than 25 years.

David explained in detail how parks and recreation open spaces contributed to the various categories of public health. These categories included physical health, emotional health, spiritual health, social health and economic health. As always, David put an enormous amount of work into his preparation and one can only gain the full benefit of this paper by obtaining a copy of the original script.

Unfortunately David passed away within a week of the conference. He touched many lives both within Ifpra and beyond. Thank you David and strength to you Kaye.


Ifpra Regional and World Assembly Meetings


There was much work to get through and the various chairs did well to complete their agendas within the allotted time.


After lunch the final conference sessions took place.


Off-Leash Area: Management Plan


The City of Calgary Parks, Animal and Bylaw Services panel presented aspects of their Off- Leash Area Management Plan. One of the driving forces behind this project must have been the large increase in the local dog population. In 2001 there were 95,563 dogs in Calgary and nine years later this number had increased to over 122,000 - an increase of more than 27 per cent!

Today, 17 per cent of all parks in the city – 1,280 hectares - are allocated to off-leash areas. In addition to catering for the large increase in dogs, the city sees off-leash dog walking as a legitimate form of recreation and a way of getting Calgarians to access outdoor pursuits.

Through public participation, the parks personnel are always on the lookout on how to improve off-leash areas. With the help of voluntary compliance with city bylaws, educational programmes and law enforcement, the Department is able to reduce user conflict in these areas. The community is seen as partners and this helps to make the city a cleaner, healthier and safer place in which to live.

Dogs and dog owners are a worldwide urban concern and the Calgary approach could well become a useful tool in reducing conflict in this area of parks management.


The Collaborative Economy


Tonya Surman, a Toronto based social entrepreneur, and founder and CEO of the Centre for Social Innovation, delivered a most interesting and challenging closing keynote address. She predicts that both the concept that “bigger is better” and the fundamentals of capitalism will fall away. Collaborative economy will replace capitalism as we know it today and working together will be the business model of the future.


After this keynote address, there was just enough time for a quick walk or jog in the delightful setting of Lake Louise. The weather, both for the pre-congress tour and for the conference itself, was amazing.


Ifpra and ARPA President’s Awards and Banquets


 The last of the formal functions, the Ifpra and ARPA President's Awards and Banquets, were held in separate venues.


To the surprise of most, Ifpra President Emanuel Trueb presented medals to those members who were deemed to have delivered exceptional service to the Institute.


 The recipients (pictured left to right) were: Gilbert Briscoe (South Africa/Australia), Yoritaka Tashiro (Japan), Torgier Sorensen (Norway), Alan Smith (UK), David Aldous (Australia) and John Brandenburg (Australia).

 The following morning dawned white as it had started snowing overnight and it increased in intensity as we travelled to the Calgary airport, two hours away. So ended a marvellous two week stay in Canada and a big thank you to all those who made it possible with special thanks to Cliff and Gail Lacey.

 Finally, IFPRA has proved over the years a wonderful organisation of networking amongst parks and recreational professionals. So it proved again in Canada where delegates from approximately 20 countries renewed old friendships and made new ones - long may this continue. Changes there will and must be - but the IFPRA spirit of camaraderie must remain.