Last week I was invited by the Medway Urban Parks and Green Spaces Forum to speak at the group’s AGM.
My role at GreenSpace has never involved public speaking, but as I grew up in Medway and had a natural affinity with several of the parks and green spaces in the area, I took the plunge and accepted.
Formed in 2006, MUPGSF has achieved so much in such a short space of time, and like countless other similar groups of volunteers up and down the country, the members showed a real passion for protecting and improving their spaces.
8,000 volunteer hours a year
The group has contributed an outstanding 8,000 hours of work to Medway’s green spaces in the past year alone.
That sort of contribution is invaluable to Chris Valdus, Medway Council’s Greenspace Development Manager, and his team.
Community involvement in parks was around long before the government’s Big Society concept, but it’s important not to place the onus on volunteers providing professional services.
Fortunately Medway has not been affected as adversely as others by the local authority spending cuts, and it’s a tribute to Chris’ team that I can see real improvements to the area’s parks – illustrated by the five Green Flag parks they manage.
Where is the youth?
However, the lack of young people represented at the meeting was eminently noticeable, particularly as the group’s Website Manager position went unfilled during the AGM.
Getting young people interested in the progress of their green spaces can prove challenging. Effective solutions tend to concentrate on involving groups that use the park from the outset, giving them ownership over aspects of the site.
We heard some inspirational examples of engagement with young people at our Parks for Youth conference in April 2010. Read through the conference report to see for yourself (it’s a large file, so might take a while to download). Most of the projects have aspects there are definitely transferable to areas like Medway.
I wish both MUPGSF, its member groups and the council the best of luck in the future, and thank them for giving me the opportunity to speak.
Take a look at my GreenSpace; who are we? presentation, which covers ways in which GreenSpace can help community groups, (also covered in this post), and outlines some of the work GreenSpace and GreenSpace South East are involved in.
By Shaun Lowman is Web Communications Officer at GreenSpace. Contact him at email@example.com.