METRO Vancouver Regional District marks the 50th anniversary of its regional parks system with a year-long celebration to showcase its 14,500-hectare network of parks and greenways.

The celebration kicked off on Wednesday at Burnaby Lake Regional Park, and this will be followed by commemorative events throughout the year.

“Back in the 1960s, our planners recognized the importance of setting aside green spaces in our rapidly developing region, and have continued to enhance our regional parks system ever since,” said Greg Moore, Chair of Metro Vancouver. “Our staff have worked tirelessly over the years to ensure future generations have opportunities to explore, enjoy, and be active in natural areas.”

In celebration of 50 years and to encourage residents to discover new beaches, forests, rivers, trails and wetlands, Metro Vancouver has introduced the Regional Parks Passport, a soft-cover booklet that lists public events, and includes maps and facts about the history, wildlife and notable features of each regional park. You can collect stamps for every visit to a park or nature house to earn commemorative stickers, crests or pins.

About 15,500 copies of passports have been distributed to local community centres, libraries and regional park kiosks. The passport is also available as a smartphone app. Download the app and visit parks to receive virtual stamps. Search ‘MVPassport’ on the Apple App Store and Google Play.

“Our Regional Parks are a world away from the hustle and bustle of urban life, allowing us all to reconnect with nature,” said Heather Deal, Chair of Metro Vancouver’s Regional Parks Committee. “We invite everyone to celebrate with us by discovering a new trail, learning about wildlife or attending one of our many outdoor events.”

Metro Vancouver hopes to draw an additional 250,000 people to its regional parks system as part of the 50th anniversary. Regular park events, such as Night Quest and Country Celebration, will feature an interactive display about the region’s parks, while new events have been created for Surrey Bend, Glen Valley and Minnekhada regional parks and the Pitt River Greenway.

Regional park champions will be celebrated online in documentary videos while a “Humans of Regional Parks” storytelling series will feature unique park visitor stories. Commemorative merchandise, including jackets, shirts, hats and bags, will be available for sale, with a portion of the proceeds going to the Pacific Parklands Foundation.

The Regional Parks system was created in 1967 and includes 23 regional parks, three park reserves, two ecological conservancy areas, and five greenways. The system aims to protect the region’s natural areas and ecosystems while providing opportunities for Metro Vancouver’s growing and diverse population to connect with nature, enjoy, and learn about the natural environment. Regional parks receive more than 11 million visits per year.

For the most current information about events, videos, stories and merchandise regarding Metro Vancouver Regional Parks’ 50th anniversary, visit www.metrovancouver.org and search ‘Celebrate Parks’.