In this leaflet we discuss the experiences of three Rethinking Parks projects. Parks Community UK is a national project that helps people shape ideas and decisions about their local parks. Performing Parks in Thurrock and Par Track in Cornwall show local people taking more direct control of parks and greenspaces through models of stewardship or ownership.
People care about local parks and greenspaces that make our communities great places to live. As well as using our parks and greenspaces, many people support them in a variety of ways – through formal or informal volunteering, making donations and running campaigns to protect them when they are under threat. Actively engaging and involving communities can encourage increased use of parks and greenspaces, create a greater sense of belonging to a local area, whilst also enabling connections between people and local places.
There are a range of different ways that communities can get involved so that parks can be created ‘by the people, for the people’.
Of particular note is the growing movement of over 7,000 local ‘Friends of Parks’ groups throughout the UK, that play a whole host of roles, demonstrating the high levels of interest from communities in our parks and greenspaces. In practice, though, community involvement can be complex and patchy.
It requires careful design, otherwise it can be at risk of being tokenistic and frustrating for all involved. How much control and responsibility communities can and want to have is often debated, especially when parks are under increased financial pressure.
The Rethinking Parks programme supported three projects, Parks Community UK, Performing Parks and Par Track to explore the potential of community involvement in parks. The leaflet outlines their experiences, some of the challenges they faced, their key lessons and sets out a framework to map the different forms that people power can take in parks.
We hope that this information will help councils, communities and others interested in working together to achieve their aspirations for parks and greenspaces.