We have discussed in TurfPro before the crisis of funding which turf professionals will recognise only too well in our parks and green spaces. It's a most depressing situation which is impossible to deny.
In these times of austerity, those in charge of the purse strings at both national and local levels are seeing the maintenance of the UK's parks as a soft target where devastating cuts can be made.
However, amidst this grim situation, there thankfully appears to be an increasingly significant movement of groups and associations who are speaking up and bringing the issue of the plight of parks into the mainstream discourse.
This past week for example, a Charter For Parks was launched by a coalition of 12 national organisations, which called on the prime minister Theresa May and first ministers Nicola Sturgeon, Carwyn Jones and Arlene Foster, to take action to safeguard our parks.
The Charter calls on the political leaders to:
- Endorse a legal duty for all public green space to be managed to a good standard.
- Ensure adequate long-term resources for maintenance, management and improvements.
- Recognise the right of every citizen to have access within walking distance to a good-quality public green space.
- Celebrate the central role well-run parks play in our neighbourhoods for all sections of our communities.
- Embed effective protection from inappropriate development or use, or loss of any part of our parks.
- Encourage and enable community involvement and empowerment of local people and park users.
Groups and organisations throughout the UK are being urged to sign up to the new Charter - which you can do here.
Dave Morris, Chair of the National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces, said: “Time is running out for local parks across the UK. Continuous budget cuts to staffing and maintenance are leaving them vulnerable to neglect and deterioration, or even sell offs. Many people think local councils are legally responsible for maintaining local parks and open spaces but unfortunately, unlike waste collection, that’s not the case yet.
“Our Parks Charter calls on the leaders of all four home nations to take action to ensure these essential and highly-popular public resources are properly funded, managed, maintained, and protected for current and future generations."
Dave Morris went on to acknowledge the role which local volunteers play in looking after community open spaces saying, "“As the voice of the movement of more than 6,000 local Friends of Parks Groups throughout the UK we recognise the immense contribution that these community volunteers are playing. Now it’s time for government to show an equal commitment to act."
This is such an important point. It's fantastic that engaged members of the public feel invested enough in their local green space that they want to do their bit to help. These people should be applauded and encouraged to join in as much as they can. But they must only be ever there as an additional assistance to specialist turf professionals.
There was a superb editorial in The Guardian last week which reiterated this point. Headlined, "Making councils cut the grass is the only way" the newspaper emphasised that when it comes to parks "volunteers can’t do it all". The Guardian warned that without help from the state even these volunteer groups are at risk of "withering away".
Hopefully movements such as the Charter For Parks will gain some serious momentum with support from organisations such as Fields In Trust, Keep Britain Tidy, Greenspace Scotland and The Gardens Trust. If professionals and the public alike get behind such campaigns, eventually the politicians will have no choice but to listen and to act on demands.