Future proof the UK’s green spaces: There is an urgent need to recruit young volunteers to care for and maintain UK parks if they are to meet the needs of current and future generations, according to Future Proof Parks – a partnership between Groundwork, Fields in Trust and National Youth Agency.
They say it is vital that we act now to recruit the next generation of volunteers, representative of the communities that enjoy and benefit from the UK’s parks and green spaces. A new series of free How-To guides have been published supporting friends of parks groups to recruit more young volunteers.
Our parks are amazing places. Across the country, volunteers work tirelessly to care for and protect their local green spaces, improving our towns and cities. They have been crucial as places to exercise, meet friends and relax during the Coronavirus pandemic. As council funding becomes further stretched, more work maintaining and improving our precious parks is being picked-up by friends of parks groups. However, these volunteers are not always representative of the whole local community that use the park – and they could benefit from a wider range of volunteers to support their growing workload.
Future Proof Parks is a National Lottery Heritage Fund programme – part of the £10m ‘Kick the Dust’ initiative –which aims to get more young people involved in preserving their local park and green space heritage. Throughout the programme young people have learned about their local historic parks and have been encouraged to join their local ‘friends of’ groups, volunteering to preserve the local spaces that matter to the communities they live in.
The project is also working with friends’ groups to give them the tools, encouragement, and support to get more local young people involved in their work and benefit from cross-generational working. To support volunteers inexperienced at involving young people, a series of How-To guides has been published introducing Friends of Parks working with young people in green spaces. The in-depth How-To-Guides which look at key areas including Recruiting young volunteers, safeguarding young people and how to fundraise with young people.
Fields in Trust Chief Executive Helen Griffiths said: “We are all thankful to the volunteers who helped maintain our parks throughout lockdown and now, coming out of the pandemic, we can all play our part to make sure local green spaces will remain a healthy part of the local environment contributing to our wellbeing, our community connections and mitigating the impact of climate change. Local parks have been vital over the last year, we must make sure they will always be there for the whole community and for future generations – helping to restore the natural world and providing safe places to meet friends and neighbours. To make that happen we have to ensure the next generation of volunteers are included and empowered to get involved now and become future leaders”
The wellbeing value associated with frequent use of parks and green spaces is worth £34.2 billion per year to the UK adult population and is estimated to save the NHS around £111 million per year through a reduction in GP visits. Parks are one of the most universal of our public services used by all members of our communities and multiple generations – so it is important that they deliver something for all the groups that use them.
Earlier this year, a report published by Groundwork drawing on contributions from 23 organisations recognising the need to reimagine parks for the 21st century, found major inequalities in people’s ability to access parks and other open spaces.
The ‘Out of Bounds’ report demonstrated the extent to which certain groups are not getting the benefit of regularly accessing ‘urban nature’ – citing evidence that girls and young women feel unsafe in public spaces, some disabled people feel uncomfortable in parks and young people from minority ethnic backgrounds have fewer opportunities to connect with green spaces.
The How-To Guides are available for free download www.fieldsintrust.org/future-proof-parks
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