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Bright Spot Profile: Inuvik’s Green Shacks

 January 4, 2016
Posted by NWT Recreation and Parks Association

This post, which explores Inuvik’s new Green Shack program, is the second in our Bright Spot Profiles series. You can read the first profile, of the Elders in Motion program in Fort Smith, here.

One of the highlights of the annual NWTRPA and SideDoor Youth Centres Conference is the Bright Spots session. Organizations often focus on what isn’t working. Bright Spots turn our attention to what organizations and communities are doing well. They celebrate innovation and success.

Sometime in the 1950s or 1960s (no one is quite sure when), small green shacks started popping up in parks around the City of Edmonton. Staffed by city employees, the shacks contained equipment for sports, games, and crafts. Neighbourhood children were encouraged to drop by the shack whenever they were open for free and fun programs. Funding challenges aside, the Green Shack program has been an unqualified success in the Alberta capital for more than fifty years.

In 2014, the program caught the eye of Steve Krug, the Recreation Programmer for the Town of Inuvik: “We saw it as an opportunity to enhance our parks and playgrounds and summer programs for great access. We thought that if it was such a big success in a big centre like Edmonton, it would be really great here.” The program was piloted in the community this past summer.

The Inuvik program is more modest than Edmonton’s—the community had three Green Shacks compared to the 180 shacks that operated in the Alberta capital in 2015. The three shacks opened on a rotating basis for three sessions each day (10.30am-12.00pm; 1.00-5.00pm; and 6.00-8.00pm) so that kids from across the community has easy access to equipment and activities. Programming was delivered by five full-time staff. Funding for the shacks and equipment came from the Department of Municipal and Community Affairs. Staff were paid with a Canada Summer Jobs Grant.

A key objective of the Green Shack program in Edmonton and Inuvik is to remove barriers to recreation. All programming at the shacks is free and offered on a drop-in basis. The shacks spread out around the community, so they are physically close to more residents. Activities on offer at the Inuvik Green Shacks this summer ranged from bocce ball and relay games to basketball and chess. Kids and parents were kept apprised of daily activity plans by whiteboards on site and through Facebook. Visitors to the shacks could take part in scheduled activities or they could sign out equipment for self-directed play. Krug observed during his presentation at the NWTRPA conference that kids voted with their feet by showing up at the park that had the activities they wanted.

The Inuvik Green Shack staff registered 1,686 visits over eight weeks in the summer of 2015. The most popular Green Shack was at the Train Park. It recorded 55 kids in a single day. Green Shack Coordinator Candice Cockney was pleased with the attendance numbers, although she thinks attendance would have been better had the weather cooperated. Invuik had an abnormally rainy summer.

Krug has big ambitions for next year’s Green Shack program. In addition to opening three more Green Shacks, he would like to introduce storytime with elders, northern games, and “Snack in the Shack,” a healthy afternoon snack time.

If you are interested in learning more about the Green Shack program in Inuvik, contact Steve Krug (skrug@inuvik.ca).