Clare's News Column November 2016
Help us save our parks and green spaces
Sadly budget cuts are affecting our parks. Park use is rising, with 57% of adults now visiting their park once a month or more, while 90% of families with children under five head to their local green space at least monthly, the State of UK Public Parks 2016 study reveals.
Dave Morris, chair of the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces, said: “The only way to halt the ever deepening funding crisis affecting all parks across the UK is to make it a statutory service.”
He added: “Parks take a long time to fall apart. It’s not immediately noticeable, like a library closing, but all the pillars of effective park management and maintenance are crumbling. If not reversed, parks will be plunged into the disaster crisis of the 1980s and 1990s when they became no go areas full of syringes and no park rangers.”
Tightening budgets are expected to lead to declines in quality of green spaces. Three-quarters of local authorities have cut staff, with the loss of skills such as horticulture, landscape design and wildlife management.
The Communities and Local Government Committeehas launched a “public parks inquiry” - looking at how parks should be supported now and in the future. The Committee will be asking what the future is for our open spaces and we want to explore the ways in which parks can be supported and secured for generations to come.
We have been working with volunteers in our local parks for many years. Currently we are working with Stroud District Council to develop a sensory garden in Stratford Park and with Cainscross Parish Council to improve Queen Elizabeth II Playing Fields for wildlife. Our work relies on volunteers and securing funding to lead volunteers and purchase equipment and materials. Our links with local communities and councils are an important part of our work; as well as improving the local environment we see individuals gaining self confidence, skills, working as part of a team and making new friends. This in turn empowers those individuals to take ownership and promote the use and care of “their” parks and green spaces.
The public parks inquiry is still open and ongoing – but you can also show your support for public parks by getting out into the park and getting involved. This could be as simple as taking a walk in the park – or why not join one of our regular groups to help with maintenance and improvement?