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Parks Foundation Calgary microgrants aim to get citizens outdoors over the winter

Parks Foundation Calgary wants to make this winter about embracing the outdoors.

With restrictions on indoor gatherings tightening, CEO Sheila Taylor said now is the best time for Calgarians to get out and take advantage of what this city has to offer.

“We know that people are feeling very isolated in their homes,” said Taylor.

“Over the summertime, people really loved getting out and enjoying parks and public spaces. In the winter, people tend to stop doing that as much.”

Calgary city councillor Druh Farrell first brought forward the idea of creating more winter activities. In late October, Farrell spoke with LiveWire Calgary about what she hoped to see.

“We need to find ways to help Calgarians enjoy the outdoors and each other’s company safely,” she said.

She anticipated a Neighbour Day-like approach to the events – just for the winter.

When it was originally conceptualized, there was a limit of 15 for outdoor gatherings. An outdoor firepit program was launched and had massive uptake. That program was ended when the outdoor gathering ban went into effect.

At the time, Farrell also mentioned a microgrant program done in conjunction with the Parks Foundation.

The microgrant program

Parks Foundation Calgary launched Embrace the Outdoors Dec. 15. It’s an incentive for groups to get creative with ways for Calgarians to enjoy the outdoors this winter.

The program is open to Calgary not-for-profit groups and community organizations.

Applications will be reviewed until Jan. 3. Provincal outdoor restrictions are in place until Jan. 13, so once decisions are made it gives time to put the plans into action.

There’s $40,000 available, with a limit of $4,500 per group.

Taylor said applications are simple and straight forward, but Parks Foundation is asking groups to keep COVID safety top of mind.

“We’ve asked them to really put the thought into that because at the end of the day they’re going to be the ones that are going to be responsible,” she said.

Part of the application processes for the groups that have the ideas is to tell us how they’re going to ensure that the idea follows the safety guidelines, said Taylor.

While there is an expectation for groups to come up with ideas alone, Taylor said there are suggestions.

“It could be things as simple as really interesting light displays in communities, sport equipment pools that people can, go and take whenever they want and play with it outside,” she said.

“We really hope that communities would have creative ideas for enhancing public spaces in ways that would draw people outside.”