Due to a decline in attendance and a lack of donations, the Glenbow Ranch Park Foundation (GRPF) will be putting its Park Talks series on hold this year.
GRPF executive director Sarah Parker said the hiatus could last until the summer.
“I wouldn’t say they’re not going to be offered ever again – we’re just taking a break from them,” she said.
GRPF’s monthly Park Talks covered a variety of topics related to Glenbow Ranch Provincial Park, including the flora and fauna of the area and the history of the wetlands. Parker said a fan-favourite was when speaker Robert Barclay, a local bat expert, gave a presentation on the subject in 2018.
According to Parker, moving the presentations from the ranch to the Cochrane Public Library a few years ago is the most likely reason for the drop in attendance. The room where the talks were originally held at the park was renovated to create more office space for Alberta Parks employees.
“We were holding them [at the library] for a while, and we held a lot of wonderful talks, but we did notice a decline in our audience turnout,” Parker said.
“Not because of the library location itself, but Glenbow Ranch is conveniently located between Calgary and Cochrane. When we moved them into Cochrane, a lot [fewer] Calgary attendees attended.”
While early Park Talks boasted audiences of more than 50 people, Parker said the last presentations saw as few as six regulars.
“When you think about all the effort those speakers put into their presentations, it was just a lot of work for us, the speakers, and for a small turn out,” she said. “That being said, we know the few regulars who attended absolutely loved them, so it was certainly a tough decision.”
A drop in revenue as a result of hosting the events at the library was another factor, according to Parker.
“When we had them at the park, we were able to charge a small fee,” she said. “When we moved them to the library, because it’s a community space, we were unable to charge. We hoped that donations from people attending would make up for that difference in revenue, but it didn’t.”
While Park Talks will be on hold for the foreseeable future, Parker said GRPF will continue to offer guided walks, as well as golf cart tours.
That said, she added, it was a tough decision to drop the monthly presentations.
“What was great about the Park Talks was that, for the people who couldn’t commit much time or had mobility issues, it was a chance for them to sit and really learn about a topic,” she said. “We really do want to bring them back – we’re hoping we can do a few talks here in the summer at the park.
“If we make them really interactive, we know we’ll have good turnout for those.”