Bright sparks to reshape our parks

Today’s blog comes from Councillor Ellie King, Cabinet member for Public Health, Communities and Bristol One City

How we safeguard the future of our planet is dominating much of the world’s focus with the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference taking place in Glasgow over the next two weeks. Here in Bristol, a new phase of understanding how we can protect our own city’s green spaces is also taking centre stage.

From last week until the end of the year, community-led ideas for enhancing five parks and green spaces in Bristol – Blaise Castle Estate, Chaplin Community Garden, Dame Emily Park, Eastville Park and Sea Mills Recreation Ground – can be submitted via Expression of Interest proposals to the Bristol Future Parks project website.

This is an opportunity for you, as Bristol citizens, to play an important role in shaping the way the city’s parks and green spaces are run and continue to help us address the climate and ecological emergencies declared by the council last year, as well as meeting our One City Ecological Emergency Strategy goals by 2030.

Eastville Park is my daily stomping ground. I’ve spent countless hours there with my children, we travel through it to school, visit the playgrounds, play frisbee in the fields, and during lockdown it was a source of adventure for the kids and wellbeing for me. The pandemic has underlined the importance of our green spaces to the physical and mental health of our citizens. The Future Parks project aims to ensure these great city assets continue to function for the benefit of all.

Between 2018 and 2020 there was a 10 per cent increase in the number of people who visit a park or green space in Bristol at least once a week, yet austerity has seen the budget available for the maintenance and enhancement of our parks reduced by around two-thirds in the past 10 years.

We know retaining the identity of parks is important to you, ranking tenth in Bristol’s 2020 Quality of Life survey, while it remains vital and a top priority for us. We just need to find new and inventive ways to do it.

This does not mean selling off our parks and green spaces, but rather giving space for innovative ideas for how they are managed, funded and maintained to succeed, empowering our communities, city organisations and businesses to innovate and support community-led projects to ensure their identity is retained, so that everyone can benefit from them.

The first phase of this project is being trialled at five sites mentioned above, developing Spirit of Place assessments with each local community to set out what is special and unique about each park and provide great insights and proposals for taking ideas forwards.

These might include restoring neglected green spaces, developing and running park facilities or starting a new community group but we want to hear from local communities and residents about what ideas or projects they would like to start in their park.

Expression of Interest proposals can be submitted through the Bristol Future Parks website from Monday 25 October to 31 December 2021, after which they will be assessed by the Parks service and an external representative from the Parks Forum, who will recommend the best ones to move forward.

It is vital that our citizens don’t feel their parks are being changed or taken away from them and have the opportunity to express their thoughts on how they want their parks to be used. So, please take part in the Future Parks project and play a role in ensuring Bristol continues to be a nature-rich city with excellent quality parks and green spaces heading into the future.