A survey released last week confirms grown-up Canadians still like to groan about going outside to play, often because they find outdoor activities too uncomfortable or time-consuming.
The Ipsos poll asked 2,000 Canadians to report how often they traded urban comforts for a natural setting. Although nine out of 10 agreed they’re happier when surrounded by wilderness, three-quarters admitted they find staying inside “easier.”
That answer varied considerably by age, with 80 per cent of millennials agreeing to the statement, compared to 68 per cent of baby boomers.
Rain, extreme temperatures and work pressures topped the list of reasons people avoided the outdoors, with a full third of respondents saying they don’t like the bugs and a quarter claiming they can’t find the motivation to leave the city.
Seven percent said they “didn’t know what to do” in nature.
Nature not a priority
But as two-thirds of respondents recalled, it wasn’t always that way. The bulk of participants had strong memories of spending more time outside as kids.
“It did reveal that Canadians aren’t spending that much time in nature — certainly not as much time as they used to,” said Lesley Marian Neilson, spokesperson for the Nature Conservancy of Canada, which partnered with Ipsos for the survey.
Whether that discrepancy reflects reality or stems from a rosy perception of the good old days isn’t clear, Neilson said.
But Neilson found it concerning that four out of 10 Canadians say they don’t spend any recreational time away from human-made environments at all.
“That’s a little alarming,” Neilson said. “There’s a saying — ‘People will protect what they love, and love what they know.’ If they know nature, and love it, they’ll protect it. There’s a chain effect.”
On average, the survey found Canadians spend just over an hour in nature on weekdays, going up to two hours on weekends.
Neilson said the average was likely skewed up by a few people who spend lots of time outdoors. The vast majority, she explained, spend very little time outside.
The poll is accurate to within 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.
Urban nature booming in Vancouver
Survey results weren’t broken down by city.
But, anecdotally speaking, Celina Starnes, public education manager for the Stanley Park Ecology Society, says the trend seems to be reversed in Vancouver.
The society has doubled the number of people showing up for events at the park in the last three years.
“I think it’s very regionally specific for us in Vancouver,” she said. “People are saying, hey, we want to be a short walk from an ecologically-diverse space.”
Starnes points to creative programs like their bitters-making workshop, which teaches people how to create their own tinctures from plants found in the park, as possible motivators.
But she’s also noticed more excitement over the beavers, otters and other wildlife in recent years, with visitors eager to encounter critters firsthand.
“We’re seeing a boom because of that authentic experience. You’re not just watching a movie about exotic birds, you’re seeing baby eagles with their heads popping over the sides of their nests,” she said.
Starnes said there’s an emerging market for those real-life sights, and has a hunch as to why. A generation that grew up listening to David Suzuki has now settled down in their careers, she suggests, and had kids of their own.
With a rainforest on their doorstep, “they’re looking for different things to do, not just finding their dream jobs and going to the bar every night,” she said.
“Plus, there’s the Instagram cred.”
With files from Daybreak South
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Sherwood Park is a large hamlet in Alberta, Canada within Strathcona County that is recognized as an urban service area. It is located adjacent to the City of Edmonton’s eastern boundary, generally south of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Trail), west of Highway 21 and north of Highway 630 (Wye Road). Other portions of Sherwood Park extend beyond Yellowhead Trail and Wye Road, while Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) separates Refinery Row to the west from the balance of the hamlet to the east.
Sherwood Park was established in 1955 on farmland of the Smeltzer family, east of Edmonton. With a population of 70,618 in 2016, Sherwood Park has enough people to be Alberta’s seventh largest city, but technically retains the status of a hamlet. The Government of Alberta recognizes the Sherwood Park Urban Service Area as equivalent to a city.
Sherwood Park, originally named Campbelltown, was founded by John Hook Campbell and John Mitchell in 1953 when the Municipal District of Strathcona No. 83 approved their proposed development of a bedroom community east of Edmonton. The first homes within the community were marketed to the public in 1955. Canada Post intervened on the name of Campbelltown due to the existence of several other communities in Canada within the same name, so the community’s name was changed to Sherwood Park in 1956.
The Sherwood Park Urban Service Area is located in the Edmonton Capital Region along the western edge of central Strathcona County adjacent to the City of Edmonton. The majority of the community is bound by Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) to the north, Highway 21 to the east, Highway 630 (Wye Road) to the south, and Anthony Henday Drive (Highway 216) to the west. The Refinery Row portion of Sherwood Park is located across Anthony Henday Drive to the west, between Sherwood Park Freeway and Highway 16. Numerous developments fronting the south side of Wye Road, including Wye Gardens, Wye Crossing, Salisbury Village and the Estates of Sherwood Park, are also within the community. Lands north of Highway 16 and south of Township Road 534/Oldman Creek between Range Road 232 (Sherwood Drive) to the west and Highway 21 to the east are also within the Sherwood Park urban service area.