OTD: World’s first national park service established in Canada

On today’s date in 1911, Parks Canada was established as the Dominion Parks Branch under Canada’s Department of the Interior to become the world’s first national park service.

Preceding the U.S. National Park Service by more than five years, Parks Canada was formed to oversee and administer the country’s economically important forest reserves and its budding assemblage of parks.

“While national parks existed for decades in both Canada and the United States – Banff, Canada’s first national park, was created in 1855 – they were disorganized and without a unified plan,” wrote Paul Irish for a May 2011 story published in the Toronto Star.

What began as a small group of parks in western Canada has become a cross-country system that maintains its original environmental and economic ideals. It has also grown to encompass tourism: three years after the agency was formed, the definition of a “Dominion Park” was expanded to include significant historic places. This was a precursor to today’s system of national parks and national historic sites, which see millions of visitors annually.


In 2011, the Royal Canadian Mint marked the 100th anniversary of the formation of Parks Canada on a $1 circulation coin.

The coin reflects the agency’s mandate to conserve Canada’s wilderness for all Canadians – present and future – to explore and enjoy.

The reverse design depicts stylized land, air and aquatic fauna, varieties of flora, as well as a symbolic park building and the silhouette of a hiker framed by a snow-capped mountain range. It is dated “1911-2011” and has a weight of 25.18 grams as well as a diameter of 36.07 millimetres.

Its obverse depicts the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II.

Five million coins began circulating as of Oct. 7, 2011.

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