The Trail Assets and Tourism Initiative (TATI) is an innovative partnership between Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC), and the Ontario Trails Council (OTC). The purpose of the partnership is to develop and enhance the parks and trails network operated by the NPC through research and collaboration. To date, the partnership team has developed strategies that support the NPC’s ability to manage park and trail assets to provide safe, enjoyable, and sustainable recreation opportunities for all. Most recently, two members of the TATI team, Garrett Hutson (Project Chair, Brock University) and Corey Burant (Program Manager of Forest Health, Niagara Parks Commission) were invited to discuss their experiences working on the partnership to Communities in Bloom, a Canadian non-profit dedicated to the improvement of civic spaces. I had an opportunity to catch up with both Hutson and Burant to further discuss the partnership and their joint presentation to Communities in Bloom.
When asked about the significance of presenting the work of the TATI partnership to a larger audience, both Hutson and Burant acknowledged the utility and endless impacts of collaboration between agencies. Burant specifically acknowledged the challenges that are facing many parks and trails operators, including those at Communities in Bloom, as a result of increased visitor pressure from COVID-19, and discussed how important it is to share resources to commonly faced challenges for these agencies. Further, Hutson commented on the power of partnerships such as the TATI, musing that participants in similar partnerships are likely to benefit from the insight he and Burant shared about collaborative work during their presentation.
Switching gears to focus on the TATI partnership itself, I asked both Hutson and Burant about their experiences working together, and what aspect of the partnership they found to be most valuable. For Hutson, the opportunity to work with other agencies such as the NPC and OTC was fulfilling, as was the ability to witness graduate students gain invaluable networking and professional opportunities outside of the traditional graduate program format. For Burant, the opportunity to collaborate with researchers from Brock is highly valuable for the NPC, stating that the quality and professionalism of the Brock contingent has been most impressive to him.
When asked about which partnership projects have been most impactful, Hutson expressed his excitement for the recent Trail Re-Alignment project, which focussed on visitor wayfinding and experience in the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve. Due to the work of the partnership team, the NPC was able to receive significant grant funding from the TD Friends of the Environment program, and the TATI-recommended work is currently underway.
Looking forwards to future partnership achievements, Burant indicated he was most excited about the next project for the TATI team, which is to create a Management Strategy for the Niagara Glen Nature Reserve. This strategy will help guide Niagara Parks in ensuring that the environmentally sensitive attributes of the Niagara Glen are protected for generations to come while also providing high quality recreation opportunities for the people of Niagara and beyond.
As for the future of the partnership? Hutson says: “We have all the right people at the table to continue to get valuable work completed, which will both add recreation vibrancy to Niagara Parks as well as protect trail environments for future generations.”
Interested in learning more about the Trail Assets and Tourism Initiative? Visit the ESRC’s website here.