Brock and Niagara Parks expand partnership to study trail network

From left to right, back row: Bridget McGlynn, Master of Sustainability candidate, Brock University; Ingrid Makus, Dean of Faculty of Social Sciences, Brock University; Peter Tiidus, Dean of Applied Health Sciences, Brock University; Garrett Hutson, Associate Professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies, Brock University; Corey Burant, Project Manager, Forest Health, Niagara Parks; Ryan Plummer, Professor and Director, Environmental Sustainability Research Centre; Steve Barnhart, Senior Director of Parks, Environment and Culture, Niagara Parks. From left to right, front row: Greg Finn, Provost and Vice-President, Brock University; Sandie Bellows, Niagara Parks Chair; Ellen Savoia, Senior Manager, Environmental Planning, Niagara Parks; and Samantha Witkowski, Master of Sustainability candidate, Brock University. Brock University photo

Brock University press release – A partnership built on the mutual goal of environmental stewardship is taking another step forward.

Two years after signing an initial Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), the Niagara Parks Commission and Brock University signed an additional collaboration agreement on Thursday, Mar. 12/2020 at Niagara Parks’ public Commission Meeting that will help the Parks assess and sustainably grow its extensive trail network.

To be known as the Trails Assets and Tourism Initiative, the new partnership involves Brock and Niagara Parks, along with the Ontario Trails Council.

Trails are an important natural asset of Niagara Parks. From the world-renowned Niagara Glen, which houses some of the province’s most sensitive plant and animal species, to the Niagara River Recreation Trail, which provides 53 kilometres of paved trails along the Niagara River from Niagara-on-the-Lake to Fort Erie, trail networks allow guests to connect with nature, learn about the unique environment here in Niagara and embrace healthy physical activities.

“Over the past few years, we have seen a huge growth in trail use and demand for trail and cycle tourism in Niagara Parks,” said Niagara Parks Chair Sandie Bellows. “This initiative will allow us to work together with our community partners to respond to that growth and demand while respecting our shared commitment to the environment.”

The agreement will include a needs assessment to help Niagara Parks with the trails master planning process, as well as experiential education opportunities for Brock students and initiatives led by Brock faculty members and grad students. Annual public events are also being planned to help pass along the results of the partnership to the community.

Ontario Trails Council (OTC), a not-for-profit organization that promotes the development, preservation, management and use of recreational trails in Ontario, will bring its expertise in managing and operating recreational trails to the project.

“The Ontario Trails Council is very excited to be working with the Niagara Parks Commission and Brock University, two national leaders in outdoor recreation and conservation,” said Wayne Terryberry, President of the Ontario Trails Council. “These organizations have a very successful history of cooperation, and the OTC can add it’s trail management expertise in a joint effort to enhance and develop the trail economy and healthy active living in Niagara Parks and the Niagara Peninsula.”

The Trails Assets and Tourism Initiative builds on both the current MOU between Niagara Parks and Brock University, as well as the recent initiative to establish a binational trail network within the Niagara River corridor. In an MOU signed in August 2019, Niagara Parks joined the Niagara River Greenway Commission and the Buffalo Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority to officially connect the recreational trail networks on both sides of the border.

This second MOU between Niagara Parks and Brock University is also part of Brock’s ongoing commitment to being a good community partner. In the past two years, it has signed similar collaborative agreements with Niagara Health, the Town of Lincoln, Community Care of St. Catharines and Thorold, Niagara Folk Arts, Pathstone Mental Health and others.

Brock Vice-President, Academic Greg Finn said the partnerships meet Brock’s Strategic Plan priorities of expanding research capacity, offering a transformational academic experience for students and enhancing the life and vitality of the local region and beyond.

“These collaborations are not just photo opportunities — they make a difference to people and the planet every day,” said Finn. “We are particularly pleased that Brock and Niagara Parks are working together in an area that is crucial to us all — the sustainability of our environment.”

The 2018 MOU between Brock and Niagara Parks has been an unquestionable success, with highlights noted in the infographic attached to this media release.

Known as the Excellence in Environmental Stewardship Initiative, the partnership has allowed Niagara Parks to access Brock researchers to further improve its sustainability and environmental stewardship goals, while giving Brock faculty and students an iconic landscape to actively engage in sustainability science.

“We had high hopes when entering into the MOU with Niagara Parks two years ago and those expectations have continually been exceeded,” said Ryan Plummer, Director and Professor of the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre. “We’ve had a vibrant and engaging partnership with meaningful impacts for both parties. It is exciting to see this second collaboration taking shape with a broader constellation of partners and I have every confidence it will be equally successful.”