As a Torontonian, my interactions with nature tend to be few due to living downtown. However, Toronto has a few urban nature parks that are just further away and require some planning to get to. This has led me to travel across the city and region to find my favourite urban park and I always want to return to Rouge Park.
The best thing about Rouge Park is that it offers a huge amount of undisturbed nature right at the corner of Canada's largest city. It hosts important ecosystems for many local species that may be displaced by the constant encroachment of the cities never-ending development.
The park is also fantastic for its high quality trails and its dedication to conservation of the land and ecosystems. You can even get personalized tours on these hiking trails, where you can learn more about the ecosystems and various species that inhabit it. Such learning opportunities make the park an experience like no other and it keeps me coming back for more.
However, I've also learnt that my experience of living in an urban bubble may not be as unique as I once thought.
Statistics Canada reported that as of 2021, 74 per cent of Canadians lived in one of our many urban areas. This means that Canadian life is very urbanized, and we don’t typically live in more natural environments. Put another way, the places that we do live are more geared toward humans than to nature itself.
Although our urban areas allow us to experience nature through city parks, it is important to recognize how big our country is and how many opportunities there are to immerse yourself in nature outside of urban areas, when possible.
It is also important to understand the barriers some people face when it comes to exploring nature. Many of us can’t get out into nature due to safety concerns, a lack of transportation or the trails themselves are not accessible. It’s always a top priority that when you do seek out nature that you do so in a way that is the most comfortable for you and your circumstances and that we all work to make natural spaces safer and more accessible for all.
Nature offers so many opportunities for adventure and activities. It isn’t just about going into nature, but also the things that you can do once you are there. Hiking, canoeing, birdwatching and camping are all extremely popular active and exciting ways to experience nature. We all deserve a break from the hustle and bustle of daily life, and nature offers us so many opportunities to do so. There are also many health benefits to being in nature.
Nature’s health benefits
The most important thing when immersing yourself in nature is making sure you don’t rush it. One study suggests that we need 120 minutes per week in nature to start feeling its health benefits.
Chase Woods Nature Reserve (Photo by Mike Szaszik)
So, what are the health benefits that nature can offer? Mentally, emotionally and physically, nature can make us feel a lot better just by being immersed in it and by slowing down and taking the time to enjoy it.
Nature can have a positive effect on mental health and can even help treat symptoms of depression and anxiety. Being in nature can also lower stress levels, like reducing cortisol (our primary stress hormone), which helps ease the mind and body. It can also help lower blood pressure.
Additionally, there are cognitive benefits that nature can offer you. Being in nature can help us think clearer and focus better. It can also have a beneficial effect on our mood by making us happier.
With these benefits in mind, it’s time to bring up the real stars of this blog: the projects that NCC manages that are close to urban centres across the country.
NCC properties by region
In this blog, I wanted to showcase wooded Nature Conservancy of Canada (NCC) projects across the nation, in hopes of inspiring your next adventure.
Please click each photo to learn more about each property.
Asquith Complex, SK (Photo by NCC)
Backus Woods, ON (Photo by Neil Osborne)
Boise-Papineau, QC (l'Association pour la conservation du Bois Papineau)
Bunchberry Meadows, AB (Photo by Carys Richards)
Chase Woods Nature Reserve, BC (Photo by Melissa Renwick)
Maddox Cove, NL (Photo by NCC)
Stony Mountain Prairie, MB (Photo by NCC)