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From "government knows best" to "yes!" lessons learned from the relationship between the staff of Gros Morne National Park, Canada and regional actors.


This paper tells the story of the relationship between the staff of Gros Morne National Park and regional actors from prior to the establishment of the park until present day. Gros Morne, established in 1973, (1) is located on the western coast of the Island of Newfoundland (Figure 1). In 1987, the park was designated a United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site for both its geological history and its exceptional scenery. Gros Morne is well known for its rock formations, which include oceanic crust and exposed mantle, fjords, and scenic vistas. There are eight "enclave" communities surrounded by the park: Cow Head, St Paul's, Sally's Cove, Rocky Harbour, Norris Point, Glenburnie-Birchy Head, Woody Point, and Trout River (Figure 2). Forestry is the largest industry in the park region. Deer Lake, population 4827, has the nearest airport. There is a significant tourism industry in the park region, resulting in a regional gross domestic product impact of $22.7 million in 2004 and $16.4 million in wages and salaries (D. W. Knight Associates 2005).



Gros Morne, like all protected areas, is embedded within a dynamic park region. Machlis (1995) listed the scales of protected area management as: the protected area, the region, the national protected area system, the realm, and the global system. Each of these scales is part of a "nested system" that influences each other with an enormous amount of complexity. Several authors have argued that the regional scale is the most appropriate for revealing localscale dynamics (Nelson et al. 2003, Walker 2003). In this context, a park region is not a physically denoted area around a protected area but a space as perceived by the communities within it. Further, communities are not monolithic, undifferentiated entities (Murphree 1994) but are composed of multiple actors with multiple interests (Agrawal and Gibson 1999). Therefore, it is more important to consider "regional actors" instead of trying to grasp the perceptions and interactions of a community as a whole. There is no single, general definition of regional actors. Here they are considered to include local business owners or operators, government agencies, industry, non-governmental organizations, scientific researchers, aboriginal people, and other members of the protected area region.

Attention to the broader relationship between parks and their regions is not new. A vast literature details the many challenges that relate to protected areas and their regions, in both developing- and developed-country contexts. Most of this literature is protected area- or country-specific, although some conceptual models have been developed (e.g., McCleave et al. 2006, Ormsby and Kaplin 2005). From the perspective of protected areas in developed countries, some of the more common challenges that arise between park staff and regional actors include a lack of trust between protected area managers and local residents (Bissix et al. 1998, McCleave et al. 2004); a low level of communication, cooperation, and coordination among government agencies within protected area regions (Beresford and Phillips 2000, Danby and Slocombe 2002, Wright 2002); and perceived lifestyle changes with new park establishment (Brown and Lipscombe 1999).

Several protected area management frameworks or approaches to "doing business" have the potential to address these challenges. These include ecosystem-based management (Agee and Johnson 1988, Grumbine 1994, Quinn 2002, Slocombe 1998); the greater ecosystem approach (UNESCO 2000); and alternative governance arrangements to traditional national or provincial/state government managed protected areas such as comanagement and traditional community management (Borrini-Feyerabend 2004). The above approaches tend to emphasize formal and structured mechanisms to address protected arearegion challenges such as formal collaboration between protected area agencies and organized regional groups, resource managers' groups, or community participation in protected area management through stakeholder groups. Much less attention has been paid to "softer" or more informal processes and mechanisms that can go a long way to building vital regional support for protected areas such as protected area employees volunteering within the community or informal communication that occurs between protected area staff and regional actors.

The relationship between the staff of Gros Morne National Park and the park's regional actors was examined as part of a larger study which sought to develop the theory and improve the practice of the regional integration of protected areas. (2) McCleave (2008, 231) defined regional integration as a "complex process by which protected area staff and regional actors engage in formal and informal social interactions in order to reach independent and shared goals related to the protected area" (Figure 3). Formal interactions can include meetings, information sharing, open houses, or joint projects. Informal interactions can include phone calls, casual gatherings, or park staff getting involved in community activities. According to McCleave (2008), a good relationship between park staff and regional actors is a vital component of strong regional integration.


Data to construct the Gros Morne case study were collected through in-depth and semi-structured interviews with 22 regional actors in the following categories: Parks Canada staff, municipal and provincial government employees, business owners/operators, nongovernmental organization staff, industry representatives, researchers/educators and park resource users (Table 1). (3) Before on-site research began, key contacts or "gatekeepers" provided the names of several actors who they thought would provide rich data for the research. Once on site, the "snowball" sampling technique was used by asking each participant to recommend another participant. Interviews continued until several actors within each category were interviewed and until no new themes emerged from the interviews, indicating the data saturation point had been reached. Interviews were from 30 minutes to 2.5 hours in length with the average interview lasting approximately 45 minutes. They were structured using an interview schedule that focused on themes related to the relationship between park staff and regional actors and the regional integration of the park.
Table 1. Categorization of Study Participants

Category             # Participants

Parks Canada                      7

Other Government                  4

Local Business                    4

ENGO                              4

Industry                          2

Researcher/Educator               1

Park Resource User                4

Total                            26

Total Participants               22

Recorded interviews were transcribed and entered into the software program NVivo 7. Transcripts were analyzed in three steps. First, open coding was used to identify nodes comprised of ideas, themes, and concerns (Neuman 2006). Second, general categories and subcategories for the nodes were identified using the results from the first round of open coding. Third, selective coding was conducted, which involved examining the previous nodes to select and organize cases to support conceptual coding categories and central explanatory concepts (Neuman 2006).

The relationship between the staff of Gros Morne National Park and regional actors can be loosely sub-divided into three stages: 1) the lead up to and designation of the park in 1973, 2) early management of the park from 1973 until the mid-1990's, and 3) recent management of the park (mid-1990's to present). Each of these stages is explored below.


Stage 1: Lead up to and designation of the Park (mid-1960's to 1973)

Gros Morne National Park was established in 1973 based on an agreement between the Province of Newfoundland and the Government of Canada and a subsequent amendment to the agreement in 1983 (Government of the Province of Newfoundland and Government of Canada 1973, 1983). The 1973 agreement stated that all privately owned land within the park was to be purchased by the province for handing over to the federal authorities (Government of the Province of Newfoundland and Government of Canada 1973). Besides the federal and provincial governments, no other regional actors were consulted or involved in the park establishment process. In particular, municipal governments and local people (including those whose lives would be strongly affected by the establishment of the park) were not invited to participate in the process.

Although local people were not consulted prior to the establishment of the park, some thought was given to the impact of the creation of the park on local peoples' traditional use of the park's natural resources. Before the agreement was ratified in 1973, a number of other new parks were created in northern Canada (Kluane, Nahanni, and Auyuittuq) under the promise by the Minister responsible that the creation of these northern parks would not be permitted to affect in any way the traditional use of wildlife and fish resources by the native people of northern Canada (Chretien 1972). Within this context, the 1973 agreement to create Gros Morne and the 1983 amendment to the agreement allowed for the following traditional uses:

* Snowmobiling would be allowed to continue. In a letter attached to the 1973 agreement from the Minister of Indian and Northern Affairs to the Newfoundland Minister of Forestry, it is stated that "Parks Canada will permit the use of snowmobiles in the park in accordance with National Park Regulations and operational policies where this use will not affect wildlife, vegetation or terrain, in accordance with the park management plan" (Government of the Province of Newfoundland and Government of Canada 1973, 1983).

* A domestic timber harvest would be allowed in certain blocks within the park boundary and the snaring of snowshoe hare would be allowed in these areas. The domestic timber harvest would be phased out so that residents born after August 13, 1973 would not be permitted to take part in the harvest.

* Access to fish staging areas would be allowed for the purpose of local commercial fishing and Parks Canada would be responsible for their maintenance and upkeep. If these areas were deemed to be no longer required for fishing then they would be added to the national park.

* Several community and tourism facilities were promised including road upgrading, campgrounds, a park visitor centre, a boat tour in Western Brook pond, a heated swimming pool, hiking and nature trails, lift access to upland areas of the park, and cross country ski trails.

* Hunting would no longer be allowed within park boundaries.

* There would be no restrictions on picking wild fruits for personal consumption.

The park boundaries were drawn so that larger communities were excluded from the park. These communities are now called "enclave communities" as they are outside of the park but almost completely surrounded by its boundary. Several settlements, some used year-round and many used seasonally, were within the boundaries of the park. As noted above, the 1973 agreement stated that all privately owned land within the park was to be purchased by the province for handing over to the federal authorities (Government of the Province of Newfoundland and Government of Canada 1973, 1983), so the intention was that residents of these communities would be relocated.

Despite the concessions granted for local peoples' traditional use of the Gros Morne's natural resources as described above, the interaction between park staff and most regional actors was minimal to non-existent during the lead up to and designation of the park, leading to distrust and poor relations during the park's early years.

Stage 2: Early Management of the Park (1973-1994)

During the years following the park's establishment in 1973, the park region rapidly became a busy tourist destination. Many local people were hired for the construction of park infrastructure. Visitor numbers increased significantly during the early years of the park from 25,000 visitors in 1974 to 192,903 visitors in 1980 (Crabb 1981). Rocky Harbour became the unofficial hub for tourism and several restaurants, motels, gift stores, and art galleries were opened within the town core. However, this period was also marked by expropriation, significant changes in local peoples' lifestyles, and minimal communication between park staff and regional actors.

Shortly after Gros Morne was established, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador began buying land from and relocating residents of the communities left within the park boundaries and transferring the acquired properties over to the federal authorities. As compensation, homeowners were given a new home in one of the enclave communities or a cash settlement. Although there were no forced relocations, one participant, a former resident of one of these communities, noted that the province told residents that if they did not sell their land they would lose many essential services including electricity and road service:
  Well it was a bit hard because Parks Canada kind of uttered a few
  threats in my mind. They said if we intended to stay there we
  would lose road service, we would lose our electricity, so it
  was kind of a threat.

There was also strong and somewhat unexpected opposition to the relocation from the residents of Sally's Cove, culminating in the blockading of the highway north for a period of time (Crabb 1981). Residents of Sally's Cove refused to move and in 1983 Sally's Cove was removed from the park and defined as an "outlying community".

Besides the relocation of some residents, the new park meant immediate changes in local residents' use of the park's natural resources, despite the allowances made in the 1973 agreement and 1983 amendment to the agreement. The most significant changes in resource use were related to timber harvesting, commercial fishing, and snowmobiling. One park staff member described how the new regulations affected local people:
  We stepped in and said "Well you can cut trees, but you can
  only cut them here, there and somewhere else. You can only
  cut this size. You can only take this amount, and you can no
  longer take moose. You can no longer take caribou. Yes, you
  can snare rabbits, but you can only snare rabbits here. Well,
  we don't like people taking berries from the national park,
  but I guess you can continue to go ahead and do it."

When Gros Morne was established, the only non-aboriginal domestic wood harvest in Canada's national park system was also established (McCarthy 2000). There are strict regulations as to where cutting is allowed, by whom, and the allowable quantities. As noted above, the timber harvest is being phased out. Several participants were concerned with this phasing out, which has been looming for years:
  When I got out of school, or a few years after, I built a home,
  I could go out in the park in those wood-cutting blocks and cut
  10 thousand feet of lumber at that time. That was my right
  because I was born before '73, but my son, born after '73, he
  don't have that right to go in on the park and cut his 10
  thousand feet of lumber.

The rules for commercial fishing in the small fishing settlements now owned by Parks Canada also changed. After park establishment, although commercial fishing was permitted to take place in the fish staging areas, fishers were not permitted to live in these areas year round. However, some fish staging areas continued to be used year-round and for non-fishing related purposes. During the early years of the park's management, park staff used a somewhat "soft" approach in dealing with use of the fish staging areas and did not actively try to enforce the rule against year-round occupancy of the buildings.

When the park was established, snowmobile use was allowed to continue in the park in "accordance with National Park Regulations and operational policies where this use will not affect wildlife, vegetation or terrain, in accordance with the park management plan" (Government of the Province of Newfoundland and Government of Canada 1973, 1983). No more details, regulations, or stipulations were set out in the agreement. The zoning plan within the park's 1985 management plan stipulated that there would be no snowmobiling within Zones 1 and 2, which included popular areas for snowmobiling such as "The Big Level" (Parks Canada 1985). The plan did not adequately consider local peoples' snowmobiling practices and locals continued to snowmobile in these areas. One Parks Canada staff member recollected that park staff were never particularly comfortable with the agreement and attempted to overlook it:
  So we had an agreement, but I think the reality was back
  in the seventies when that was signed, as an agency we
  didn't like it. We did whatever we could to try to either
  get rid of it or squeeze it right into [a ball], you know.
  I think that reflected upon our approach and how we engaged.
  If you have an agreement to do something and you are going
  to try and do something different, that's not going
  to go well.

In 1988, Parks Canada presented a position consistent with the Zone Plan during public meetings in the enclave communities. The proposal was strongly rejected in all communities and the meetings almost became violent (Landry 2007). Some local residents created the Snowmobile Club and became the voice of local snowmobilers. There were several years of position-based negotiations between the Park and local communities which resulted in escalating mistrust and animosity (Landry 2007).

This stage of Gros Morne's management was also characterized by a somewhat distant and formal relationship between the staff of the park and local governments, regional industry (particularly forestry), and provincial governments. One participant explained that communication between the park and the local enclave governments was disjointed, with the park communicating separately with each community and formal letters were the most common method of communication. According to a provincial government employee, the early relationship between the staff of Gros Morne and the Newfoundland and Labrador Department of Natural Resources was "distant" and revolved around formal mechanisms such as environmental assessments. For much of GMNP's existence there was very little interaction between park staff and Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd., a very significant regional actor with tree harvesting licenses surrounding most of the park. One participant who was active in the forest industry during the park's early years noted that the park was perceived by the industry as quite "insular" and that park staff "kept to themselves."

Stage 3: A Shift in Approach (1994-present)

Between 1994 and 2000, there was a perceptible shift in the approach that Gros Morne's staff took in managing the park and in communicating and working with regional actors. This shift occurred both formally, through the creation of formal mechanisms for interacting with regional actors and the involvement of park staff in formal land use processes, and informally, through a significant shift in the way that park staff and regional actors interacted and the hiring of key staff members who were committed to improving relationships with regional actors.

Formal Mechanisms for Interaction

Three new groups, the Gros Morne Co-operating Association, the Mayor's Forum, and the Connectivity Working Group, were established during this period and continue to operate today. They each enable Parks Canada to interact on a regular basis with different regional actors.

The Gros Morne Co-op was created in 1993 with seed money from Parks Canada during a period when other 'Friends Of' cooperating associations were being created across Canada. According to a Parks Canada participant, the Co-op was essentially given a "clean slate" in terms of the potential projects and programs it could initiate. Although most park cooperative associations have focused their efforts on in-park projects, the Gros Morne Co-op has expanded its mandate substantially to include community development projects and other non-park related programs.

The Gros Morne Co-operating Association has acted as a key link between Gros Morne National Park and the local community. There is a strong working relationship between the Field Unit Superintendent4 and the co-op director and they meet every workday morning for "15 minutes of touching base." Some participants reported that some community members are not able to perceive the difference between the park and the co-op. In the past, some local people were somewhat leery of this "closeness" between the park and the co-op - particularly during the period when Parks Canada was becoming a federal agency in 1998 - as some people perceived it might be a way for Parks Canada to access lower cost labour.

In 2000, the Mayor's Forum, a regular meeting between the Field Unit Superintendent and the mayors of the enclave communities, was created. The group meets once every three months and the agenda is open and not drafted by the park. The forum has created the opportunity for more uniform communication across the enclave communities and has initiated instances of joint problem solving, particularly in relation to boundaries issues. The group also organises an annual social gathering for all of the mayors, councillors, and park staff.

In 2001, the Connectivity Working Group was created, composed of representatives of the provincial government, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper, Natural Resources Canada, and Parks Canada. The group was created as a result of an acrimonious environmental assessment process for a proposal by Corner Brook Pump and Paper to modify its forestry plan and harvest timber in the Main River watershed area, located northeast of GMNP's boundary. The agencies in the Connectivity Working Group signed a memorandum of understanding to work cooperatively to develop science-based solutions to ensure that Gros Morne National Park remains connected with its broader landscape (Anderson and Van Dusen 2003). As a result, Corner Brook Pulp and Paper did modify its harvesting plan for the region in accordance with marten habitat. The group has not been meeting as frequently recently; however, it was described by a former Corner Brook Pulp and Paper employee as an "organic way of keeping in touch". The Connectivity Working Group was perceived by participants as a very productive endeavour that resulted in concrete results:
  Science is what you need to make good decisions and if the
  science is not there you have got to go get it. Working
  cooperatively with government agencies is a lot better than
  hiring a consultant to do a report, because you will get a
  report but you may not get any real knowledge or something
  useful out of it. You know, working together just builds
  good relationships so it was to the advantage of both the
  company and the park to work cooperatively.

Besides the creation of the three formal groups noted above, several formal land use processes have been recently undertaken in the Gros Morne National Park region. The two most extensive processes were for community snowmobiling and public and commercial snowmobiling. (5)

In 1999, GMNP managers, after years of position-based negotiations between the Park and local communities, decided that they "were not getting anywhere" with the issue of snowmobiling and decided to change their approach:
  We really took a different approach in 1999 which was
  really to back way off, and listen to what people had
  to say. We backed off in terms of building the fear
  factor of ecological destruction and demise and that

A community-based process was then initiated and representatives of local residents, the provincial government, and the Protected Areas Association of Newfoundland and Labrador, an environmental NGO based in St. John's, became part of the Snowmobile Working Group. At the end of 19 monthly workshops the Working Group had developed a common understanding of the issues, generated a common vision, and developed information and options which were presented at two rounds of public involvement sessions.

In 2001, the Snowmobile Guidelines for Community Use of Gros Morne National Park were prepared by the Snowmobile Working Group and approved by the Field Unit Superintendent. The guidelines allow snowmobile use by local people on certain access routes through the park and limits snowmobiling in Zone 1 areas, except for one route onto the Tablelands. In May 2002, the Field Unit Superintendent approved the terms of reference for an on-going Resident Snowmobile Management Board with representatives from all the local communities and Parks Canada (Parks Canada 2002). The board's objectives are to monitor and control community snowmobile use within Gros Morne, set up a monitoring program, and implement a safety and education program.

In 2002, Parks Canada initiated a process to address public and commercial snowmobiling in Gros Morne National Park. A working group was created that represented commercial operators, snowmobile club members, three ENGOs which rotated their participation, and Parks Canada. Facilitated meetings were held on multiple weekends over the span of four years. Some participants who were interviewed for this study took part in the process and characterized it as "difficult but cordial." Other participants felt that the process was too controlled and did not allow for a complete discussion of "big picture" issues or argument.

In 2005, a management plan for public and commercial snowmobiling was developed (Public and Commercial Snowmobile Working Group 2005). The plan was not endorsed by all members of the group, particularly some regional snowmobile club members who did not agree to any restrictions on snowmobiling and some ENGO members who did not feel that the plan went far enough to limit snowmobiling. The plan denotes areas where snowmobiling is allowed, the season of use, regulations for use such as avoiding arctic hare habitat, and the non-allowance of any built structures. At the end of the process, the Protected Areas Association did not endorse the management plan for public and commercial snowmobiling because some of its board members did not agree to the level of use in the plan.

In 2009, the park's updated management plan was released (Parks Canada 2009). The plan is based on the results of the working groups and committees established during the late 1990's and early 2000's as well as several years of targeted consultations with regional actors. It has an extensive section on partnerships and public engagement reflecting the importance that is now placed on the relationship between park staff and regional actors.

Informal Mechanisms for Interaction (1994 - present)

The mid-1990's saw a significant shift in the manner in which park staff informally interacted with regional actors. (6) Generally speaking, this shift has had a very positive effect on the relationships between park staff and regional actors.

Several participants noted that park staff now attempt to say "yes" to as many community requests for park staff's expertise or park resources as possible. Recent examples include playing minor roles in community festivals and events and providing expertise to local councils on community involvement methods. According to them, this practice has helped build trust and respect. Most park staff believe that every time a local person perceives a benefit from the park or park staff, their support for the park will increase.
  We find ways of saying "yes" to some of the things they
  want to do that in the past we felt was outside of our
  mandate, or maybe a little conflicting with our mandate.
  But if you're going to develop a partnership sometimes
  you have to do things because they want it done. If
  you're going to build the respect and the trust so that
  you can build a little bit of equity, you can spend it
  when you need something done. Local people will support
  protected areas if they see a benefit to them, right?
  I think if we assume, and I think in many cases we have,
  that people should like what we do because it's such a
  great and lofty responsibility, that would be incredibly

During this period GMNP staff developed clear principles to define their involvement in and communicate with the local community (Parks Canada n.d.). The park's "Engaging Communities" strategy (Parks Canada n.d.), written by park staff, was summarized by a park staff member:
  It says that every time we're doing something here we
  should be making sure that we have our community members
  and our partners involved in it. When there are activities
  going on out in the community, we should be aware of them
  and should be seeing where we can help to support them,
  making adjustments to our programming at the same time so
  that we're not having a big event here when they've
  got a big event going on there. It's where we sit on their
  committees as resource people.

Also notable is the fact that the staff of Gros Morne put a great deal of emphasis on social interactions and informal gatherings with regional actors. This is a strategic decision that has been quite effective in building the trust and support of regional actors. Park staff regularly visit regional actors and plan many social events. The staff do not consider "long chats" as wasted time but as quality time interacting with regional actors outside of the context of formal meetings. Several participants mentioned that they appreciate the park's effort in planning social events and that it is important to "not talk business" all of the time.

More local people and Newfoundlanders with personal connections to the Gros Morne region were hired by Parks Canada during this stage and were put into key strategic planning positions. These new staff members were committed to improving relations with regional actors and were able to connect more easily with them because, according to one local resident, they had the ability to "move through the web of personal relationships quicker than [other] new staff". Several of these new hires were personally responsible for the implementation of several of the formal and informal mechanisms for interaction with regional actors described above.

Finally, while most participants had very positive perceptions of the way that the GMNP staff have interacted with the local community in recent years, a few participants felt that the park has now gone "overboard" in its effort to appease local people, to the detriment of the park's ecological integrity. For example, some felt that the accommodations made for snowmobiling in the park may have a negative impact on the park's ecological integrity.

Changes in National Park Policy over Time

The evolution in the relationship between Gros Morne National Park and its regional actors has mirrored a similar, broader evolution in national park policy over time. Particularly, policies indirectly related to national park-region interactions have undergone significant changes over the last 10-15 years, mirroring worldwide trends related to a new "paradigm" of protected areas management (Phillips 2003) and ecosystem-based management (Dearden and Dempsey 2004, Slocombe and Dearden 2002). The Agency has shifted from managing for visitor satisfaction and natural resource conservation independently to the use of ecosystem-based management as a basic management approach and the protection of ecological integrity as the main goal. There has also been a recent shift within the Agency toward an "integrated mandate" of protection (ecological integrity), education, and visitor experience (Parks Canada 2007). The "integrated mandate" recognizes that the long-term success of the Agency depends on integrating these three components and that protection of ecological integrity and the long-term sustainability of the Agency cannot be achieved without promoting education and developing visitor experiences (Parks Canada 2007). Also relevant is a recent focus within the Agency on making interactions and partnerships with regional actors more effective by moving them along an "engagement continuum" that begins at awareness, moves to understanding, and culminates with support (Parks Canada 2007, 2001).

Lessons from Gros Morne National Park

Several studies have identified lessons learned about the people-park relationship from the history of the establishment and/or expansion of national parks around the world (e.g., Brown and Lipscombe 1999, Kaltenborn et al. 1999, West and Brechin 1991, Zube and Busch 1990). However, the history of the establishment and management of Gros Morne National Park stands out among these case studies because of the dramatic improvement in the relationship between park staff and regional actors and the shift in regional actors' perceptions about park management over a relatively short period of time.

Lessons can be derived from the unique formal mechanisms for interacting with regional actors that were developed in the Gros Morne region in the mid-1990's. As shown in this case study, a strong park co-operating association ("Friends of" groups in Canada) and regular meetings between co-op and park staff can improve links between park staff and regional actors. The Gros Morne Co-op's focus on regional development has moved it outside of the traditional scope of park cooperating associations; however, it is also one of the largest, most active, and most well-connected of all of the cooperating associations in Canada. The Gros Morne case study has also shown that in situations where a protected area is in close proximity to human settlements (i.e. villages, towns or cities), regularly scheduled meetings and social events between the park and municipal representatives can be a very effective way to share information between governments and keep personal relationships strong. Finally, the community-based committees and working groups in place in Gros Morne for addressing park issues (e.g., snowmobiling, timber harvest, and fish staging areas) have worked well in this case study. They were cited very frequently by participants as the way that park staff and regional actors communicate and solve problems.

Where the Gros Morne case study stands out, however, is in park staff's way of initiating and undertaking informal interactions with regional actors. Since the mid-1990's the frequency of informal and social interactions between park staff and regional actors has increased substantially, which has helped to build trust, improve understanding of regional actors' goals and viewpoints, and create the personal relationships that are fundamental for continuity and organizational communication. The story of Gros Morne shows that "giving a little" and "saying yes" to requests from regional actors as much as possible can go a long way toward building regional support for the park. Gros Morne's "Engaging with Communities" strategy (Parks Canada n.d.) exemplifies a unique way for park staff to get involved in shaping park staff-community interactions.


In conclusion, the history of the establishment of Gros Morne and the evolution of the relationship between park staff and regional actors over time exemplifies the reality that protected areas cannot be managed as "islands" in isolation to their surrounding regions and that building regional support for protected areas is crucial for their sustainability (McNeely et al. 2006).

Several factors have contributed to the dramatic improvement in the relationship between park staff and regional actors in Gros Morne including the many innovative mechanisms for formal and informal interactions between park staff and regional actors that have been established. One participant provided a succinct summary of the evolution of this relationship and the reasons behind it:
  You know when the park was first set up one could argue
  they were anything but integrated into their local
  landscape let alone regional landscape. They dislocated
  residents, they moved communities and ever since they've
  been trying to undo that and rebuild community trust
  and not be an authoritarian kind of little fifedom in
  Western Newfoundland but trying to be a fair and respectful
  player. That's tough but with good people involved - and
  they do have a lot of good people involved with Gros Morne's
  management now -1 think they're doing a good job of it,
  certainly in the kind of community consultation level.

(1.) Gros Morne National Park was not officially gazetted by parliament until October 1, 2005, primarily because of the park uses that were agreed to in the federal-provincial agreement (i.e., snowmobiling, domestic timber harvest) but which did not conform to the regulations and intent set out in the Canada National Parks Act. Until then, management and operations were carried out using various federal and provincial statutes.

(2.) See McCleave (2008)

(3.) There are no First Nations communities near Gros Morne National Park. Several aboriginal people living near Gros Morne were contacted but no interview could be arranged.

(4.) Gros Morne is within the Western Newfoundland and Labrador Field Unit. The Field Unit Superintendent has overall responsibility for management planning and implementation within the field unit.

(5.) There have also been processes to address the fish-staging areas, the domestic timber harvest, and moose over-population.

(6.) This may have been - at least in part - because this stage also saw a change in the qualifications and composition of staff within the field unit office. Several examples of new people with new ideas about park-community relations and an interest in trying different approaches were mentioned in the interviews. Such considerations were not a focus of the research, however, so relevant data (e.g., whether/how many staff were local and what qualifications and backgrounds they had as well as how these factors changed over time) were not gathered for the study. In consequence, the potential relevance of such factors to the relationship between park staff and regional actors is unknown.


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Julia McCuaig is a former post-doctoral research fellow in the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary. She is currently employed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. This research was conducted as part of Julia's PhD in Geography at the University of Waterloo. She can be reached at
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Author:McCuaig, Julia
Article Type:Case study
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Date:Jan 1, 2012
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