THE value of the nation’s public parks are as important now as they were when the first public park, Birkenhead Park, was constructed on the Wirral 154 years ago.
Many people have been self-isolating for over a year, and the visit to ‘their’ local park has helped their mental health and wellbeing, especially in the springtime when birds are abundantly in full song attracting partners.
The smell of freshly mown grass is a real tonic, without the gin!
But, seriously, council leaders have cut park and open spaces budgets brutally for the last 30 years and there is no ‘fat left on the bone’ as treating parks and recreation departments as the ‘Cinderella’ of council services has shown. and indicated ny the lack of understanding of the importance of public parks and gardens.
There are exceptions, like Harrogate and Scarborough, who have seen the benefits in attracting visitors who spend money in shops on the diminishing high street which helps the local economy.
Parks can actually generate money with park cafés, like Inn the Park, in St James’s Park, London, which along with three mobile catering units, help the Royal Parks, which is a charity, to maintain high standards in the eight Royal Parks.
Local authority parks managers have plenty of ideas for making money, with for example cultural events together with temporary mobile catering units, serving healthier food options other than burgers, which will attract visitors and help to improve the health of the nation’s population by bringing people back into parks.
Build more outdoor gyms for adults in preparation for the next lockdown.
There are plenty of cost savings to be made by sowing drifts of wild flowers seeds instead of formal flower beds.
Planting small coppices of trees in parks will help to improve air quality and reduce the amount of area to be mown.
Getting the community involved in planting will give a sense of ownership and at the same time reduce vandalism.
Council leaders and chief executives need to ‘wake up’ to the value of public park assets they are providing for residents and spend less on costly democratic services.
In the case of East Riding of Yorkshire Council, councillors’ allowances have increased between 2016 to 2021 by £998.