Differential Participation of Ethno-cultural Groups in Nature-based Activities in Rouge National Urban Park
Rouge Park – a near-urban nature park crossing the City of Toronto, the York Region and Durham Region – is currently undergoing transition to federal (Parks Canada) management. The park represents a major nature-based recreation destination within driving distance of seven million residents in southwestern Ontario, where populations are becoming increasingly diverse due to immigration. The changing demographics insofar as emerging user demands are concerned, present an interesting challenge for parks planning and management in Rouge Park, where the focus has traditionally been on promoting natural history and conservation. In light of this, the present research attempts to answer the following questions: How ethno-culturally diverse are the park users? How do users from ethno-cultural minorities (and particularly immigrant populations) relate to the park? What can environmental service providers/managers/planners do to encourage inter-cultural learning about the environment? While interviewees generally agree that there is evidence of demographic diversity among Rouge Park users, the extent of diversity of users and uses in the park is debatable. The fact that the presence of minority groups in Rouge Park is statistically incongruent with their proportions in the wider geographic area suggests that a sub-portion of visible minorities or immigrants have not made the park a recreational destination. Interview findings suggest that both socio-economic and cultural factors are responsible for differential participation of minority and newcomer groups. How these factors interact to influence perceptions and behaviours in nature-based activities, however, is unclear. Review of literature reveals several distinct theoretical frameworks which serve to explain the relationships between ethnicity and recreation. Nevertheless, several recommendations resulted from a combination of literature reviews, document analysis and interviews. These will allow practitioners to better respond to emerging user demands as well as to appreciate different views of nature informed by diverse identities and lived experiences.