Now Or Never

Adult hide-and-seek, nature therapy and other reasons you should visit a park this weekend

In the past two years, over half of Canadian cities have seen increased park use. Parks have become a lifeline: places of connection, community and surprise.

Parks across the country are being used more than ever. So what are you waiting for?

Trevor Dineen hits the 'monkey trails' at Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (CBC/Bridget Forbes)

With warmer weather here (or at least on the horizon!), many of us are looking forward to getting outdoors after a long winter. And where better to go than your local park?

Throughout the pandemic, over half of Canadian cities saw increased park use. Amid moments of isolation and restrictions on indoor gatherings, parks became a lifeline — places of connection and community. 

So, in the spirit of the May long weekend, Now or Never presents the reasons you should go to the park:

To improve your mental health

Simone Wright, on right, was prescribed outdoor time by her naturopath to improve her mental and physical health. (CBC/Ify Chiwetelu)

Simone Wright would not describe herself as "outdoorsy," in fact, she spent most of her life actively avoiding the outdoors. But when her health took a turn for the worse, her naturopath gave her an unusual prescription: spend more time in nature. Simone takes Ify for a walk through one of her favourite hidden green spots in Toronto.

To commune with deer and 'dinosaur' trees

Rhonda Halliday and her beloved Wollemi Pine at the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in Winnipeg, Manitoba. (CBC/Bridget Forbes)

Rhonda Halliday ditched her cubicle in a bank to become the lead gardener at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park. Now her hands shake with excitement and nerves as she cares for the Wollemi Pine, an endangered species of tree that was around when dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Trevor, on left, Brian, on right... and a deer! (CBC/Trevor Dineen)

When the pandemic hit, Brian Campbell headed for the park to escape stress. There, he struck up an accidental friendship... with a herd of wild deer. He now visits them for "therapy" several times a week.

To connect with — and remember — loved ones

Lindsay Somers and her mom spent as much time outside as possible. (Submitted by Lindsay Somers)

When she found out her mom had terminal brain cancer and didn't have long to live, Lindsay Somers took Monday and Thursday afternoons off, and took her mom, Donna Glowa, out to the park. At a beautiful spot she and her mom spent a lot of valuable time, Somers talked about what those moments meant to her

To grow and find all the food you need

With a homegrown squash like this, who needs a grocery store? (Wendy Parker/CBC)

It's been over 10 years since Métis/Nehiyaw elder Audrey Logan has had to step foot into a grocery store. Hear how Audrey has reclaimed Indigenous agriculture practices in the middle of the city. 

To try something new

Elizabeth Schwersensky and stepson Joel stretch it out before a recent run in Assiniboine Park. (CBC/Bridget Forbes)

In the past, Elizabeth Schwersensky would have described her stepson Joel as "allergic to nature". But this spring the 16-year-old laced up his runners for the very first time and hit the road with his stepmom. Now he leaves her in the dust!

To play, build community and be a kid!

Abigail and Joshua, all grown up and in front of the new playground at Oakdale Community Centre in Toronto. (CBC/Ify Chiwetelu)

Back in our very first season, we introduced you to Abigail and Joshua Dunbar — two kids from the Jane and Finch neighbourhood in Toronto who were fighting for a new, safer playground in their community. Six years later, we meet up with the now-teenagers at the new playground they had a hand in making happen.

This group of new friends capped off their park evening with a game of hide-and-seek in Christie Pitts Park, Toronto. (CBC/Ify Chiwetelu)

What do you do when you're a group of new friends who met on TikTok? You play a game of hide-and-seek of course! Join Ify and a group of former strangers in Toronto's Christie Pits park as they relive this classic childhood game.