Parks and green spaces are often lifeless and neglected without the participation of local residents and communities.
Involving people in their management can bring many valuable benefits -to the individuals, to society and to the fabric and facilities of each site.
Wise managers of open spaces proactively
encourage and support involvement and volunteering in its many forms -including 'Friends of' groups, community groups, resident associations, volunteer warden schemes or specialist nature and conservation groups.
Parks managers often also provide technical support and advice to community and voluntary groups to enable them to deliver working projects which support the improvement of local open spaces.
Involving users can help councils carry out their work more efficiently and effectively.
Public participation is also about enhancing the democratic legitimacy of local government. Improving the level of involvement of local people in public services is a major part of the localism agenda persued by most political parties
Engagement is the way in which the council proactively promotes and seeks the participation of local people and their communities to deliver services in parks and open spaces. There is always a range of different communities within a green space's catchment area who have an interest in it. Some are communities of location such as residents or park friends groups, where others can be communities of interest, such as sports groups, history societies, events groups etc. Only real understanding of the different needs and aspirations of these groups will ensure maximum possible use of the site to deliver excellent spaces and services.
Genuine community engagement encourages challenge to the way services are delivered, tries to identify root causes of issues, contributes to developing local knowledge, local capacity, confidence and ownership. There is a wide range of methods for engaging local people in their local park or open spaces, from simple surveys through to more deliberative and participative methods such as site/service design, planning or general forums