For this week’s “Charitable Choices” feature we spoke with Executive Director, Tricia Collingham of Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES). Through collaborative leadership in environmental education, research, and conservation in Stanley Park, this registered charity fosters an understanding of and respect for the natural world.
Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.
Stanley Park Ecology Society (SPES), is a registered charity in operation since 1988. Our mission is to promote awareness of and respect for the natural world through collaborative leadership in environmental education, research, and conservation in Stanley Park. SPES is the only nonprofit society that has a Joint Operating Agreement with the City of Vancouver/Vancouver Park Board (VPB) to provide ecological education and community stewardship in Stanley Park. Every year, SPES’s conservation team engages hundreds of community volunteers in habitat restoration and wildlife monitoring across the park’s 404 hectares of forest, wetland and beach, while educators connect over 20,000 people each year with nature through school and public programs in-person and online, and through the operation of Vancouver’s only Nature Centre. SPES advises the Park Board and provides baseline information on conservation issues within the Park, including ecosystem integrity, Environmentally Sensitive Areas and Species at Risk
What problem does it aim to solve?
Stanley Park Ecology Society aims to create harmony between nature and people, inspiring and empowering communities to make choices that sustain healthy ecosystems. Over 9 million visitors per year visit Vancouver’s world-class, Stanley Park. Balancing recreational needs with the Park’s ecosystem health is an ongoing challenge. SPES staff and volunteers are actively engaged in restoring sections of the Park’s forest and wetland habitats degraded in large part by impacts from all those visitors. Research, mapping, monitoring and data collection allow us to provide continued reporting on the state of the Park, monitoring changes and proactively addressing environmental issues.
Environmental education serving an average of 5000 children and youth per year instills respect for the natural world with the next generation.
When did you start/join it?
I joined SPES as the Executive Director in 2021. I was inspired by the incredible work of the organization and the positive impact that visiting Stanley Park has had on my own experience of living in Metro Vancouver. During COVID, social isolation created a strong desire to connect with nature in a meaningful way. The opportunity to work with an organization that is dedicated to connecting people with nature was a perfect fit for my background and values. SPES is a tremendous organization with a small team of dedicated staff (approximately 15) and between 200 and 700 volunteers annually.
What made you want to get involved?
As a previous volunteer with SPES, I understood that meaningful volunteer opportunities in nature are proven to build well-being, purpose and community – above and beyond nature’s stress-reducing benefits. The Park is near and dear to so many people locally, regionally, provincially and worldwide. It is a very special place to connect with nature. I feel very passionate about supporting conservation, research and environmental education so Stanley Park can be enjoyed by many generations to come.
What was the situation like when you started?
I started with SPES after the organization navigated many operational challenges and changes due to COVID. This included moving many public programs to an online format.
How has it changed since?
The situation has been continually evolving. Currently, the park is open to visitors and we are operating at full capacity across our departments.
What more needs to be done?
As a not-for-profit organization, SPES has an annual operating budget of approximately $750,000. The organization is reliant on grant funding, donors, members, volunteers and public support of our programs. We cannot operate without the generosity of our supporters. We urge people to look at ways they can support our longevity and get involved.
How can our readers help?
You can support Stanley Park Ecology Society in many ways including donating, becoming a member, volunteering, and attending our events. You can find out more here.
Do you have any events coming up?
We always have events open to the public. Check out our current offerings here.
Where can we follow you?
Our Website provides a comprehensive overview of work.
We can also be found on social media:
PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity/non-profit that you love?
We love the work of Talaysay Tours, a First Nations-owned and operated tour company offering extensive land-based learning with an Indigenous focus. They have many tours within Stanley Park to enjoy.