On Saturday, my son and I visited Springwater Provincial Park. along with a few hundred others, to show support for the continued existence of the park which is slated to lose its status at the end of the month. It is a great little park and everyone there had fun.
I will be sad to see the park go but I can’t claim to be heavily invested in it. It is a great local park for Barrie but I have only visited it twice. I guess I won’t be visiting it again as it will become a ‘non-operational’ park the beginning of April. I think that means the cross country hiking or ski trails will continue to be open but the animal sanctuary, the unique part of the park, will be no more.
Animal sanctuaries are my thing. I love seeing local wildlife close up and even as a young adult would call strangers walking down the street to see some raccoon or snake I had found. The Robertcats (I convinced my son that it was too informal to call them ‘bobcats’) and lynx were the first I had seen ever. I even loved the “site vacant” signs with their explanation that the park did not buy or collect animals but only provide a home for those unable to return to the wild. This kind of viewing opportunity needs to be preserved.
The thing is, from a numbers standpoint, the park really should be shut down. I said that several hundred people attended the Saturday gathering, but that is probably the same number as visited the park in two or three months last year. This is a local secret that people only seem to learn about from word of mouth.
I hope Springwater stays open but I also hope other people and parks are taking a second look at marketing and public awareness. I’ve been out of the country for thirteen years so perhaps my ability, or lack of, to name parks is no indicator of the average Ontarians’. I looked at the Ontario Provincial Parks website and was happily surprised to see how many there are, and how many I didn’t know about in my neighbourhood. Well, I might be a little upset, too.
Why aren’t these parks better known? Springwater is a great park that I suspect no one knew about three months ago. I only recently learned that Springwater has cross country ski trails. Wish I’d known that in early February.
As I’ve repeatedly written, I’ve been away. I am not sure what the responsibilities of a park are compared to the responsibilities of the “Friends of…” Who is involved in marketing? How professional are these groups. Back in the nineties, I had thought “Friends of Algonquin Park” was a volunteer organization of enthusiasts.
The thing I want is for those responsible for Awenda Prov Park and Arrowhead Prov Park to be sure they are keeping their parks in the public’s eye. These are two great places that I know about that don’t get much attention. I know nothing about Bass Lake, McCrae or Mara Provincial Parks even though I drive within 50kms of them twice or more a month. Explorer’s Edge, are these parks are in your region of responsibility?
What advice can I give to the marketers? Well, I have a few ideas.
First, when you make a website, Facebook page, Google+ or Twitter account, Keep Adding Content! The Wye Marsh, a great place that also needs to be aware of its marketing, offers both a good and bad example. The Facebook page Wye Marsh has four friends and five photos (all mine!). It has been in operation for two years with no apparent support from Marsh management. The Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, another Facebook page, is full of what appears to be daily content. Attention seems to attract attention. Next to actual Wye Marsh generated content is more content made and prepared by the public. Win-win.
Second, make sure you have accounts with the three media above (and more) and your own website. Link between them. Really, these two steps are all that is needed for basic Search Engine Optimization.
Third, plan some events and write about them now! Don’t wait until news comes that your park will soon be shut down. Do it now.