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Category: Open space and recreation areas

national, state and local parks; state forests; rivers and reservoirs; coastal waters and beaches; public parks and gardens; community gardens; botanic gardens; arboreta

Green space and public health – (1) A short background

In the beginning …..

The impact of the Industrial Revolution in the early 1800s on both sides of the Atlantic led to increasing urbanisation and a population that began to work indoors, in ‘the dark satanic mills’ of factories, rather than in outdoor active agricultural occupations. It was realised that people needed places to re-create themselves, and so the evolution of parks (and the word ‘recreation’).

When parks were first promoted in the nineteenth century, city officials had a strong belief in the potential health advantages that would result from open space. It was thought that parks would reduce disease, crime and social unrest as well as providing ‘green lungs’ for the city and areas for recreation.

In referring to London in 1829, famous landscape designer J.C. Loudon provided his Hints on Breathing Places for the Metropolis, and for Country Towns and Villages, on Fixed Principles, stating:

We hope that the legislature may not think it unworthy of their attention to take into consideration the subject of breathing places, on some systematic plan, calculated for the benefit of all ranks in all parts of the British metropolis. 

Already at that time, it was also believed that exposure to nature fostered psychological well-being, reduced the stresses associated with urban working and living, and promoted physical health. These assumptions were used as justification for providing parks in cities, and preserving wilderness areas outside of cities for public use in the UK, Europe and USA.

In both England and the USA the focus was on the ability of non-work activity to improve the health, education, social adjustment and life chances of poor people, children, the elderly, handicapped and others who had few resources to replace the outdoor physical activity of agriculture-based peasant life. A less charitable interpretation is that nature-based recreation would shape their mental outlook and improve their character, making them more malleable in their new roles as industrial workers. And so open space was dedicated to provide these opportunities. The human relationship with nature was being recognised as deeply intertwined with both the human conscious and subconscious mind.

Poets and writers captured this (common) sense, like Wordsworth in his 1802 “Daffodils” which concludes with:

I gazed—and gazed—but little thought,

What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,

And dances with the daffodils.”

 

Irish writer and poet Oscar Wilde’s 1897 quotation, inscribed on his memorial statue in Merrion Square, Dublin, Ireland reads: “It seems to me we all look at nature too much and live with her too little.”

 

The various movements to establish parks centred on shaping urban development, preserving nature and creating opportunities for wholesome recreation, and on using recreation and exposure to nature to promote physical activity, character development, socialisation skills and education. In the UK the Registrar of Births Deaths and Marriages said in his annual report of 1845: “a Park in the East End of London would probably diminish the annual deaths by several thousands …. and add several years to the lives of the entire population”.

In the mid-1850s Frederick Olmsted championed the cause of city beautification in the USA, including a reference to Central Park in New York as “a healthy refuge from the over-crowded living sections in southern Manhattan”. A colleague referred to Olmsted as “An artist, he paints with lakes and wooded slopes; with lawns and banks.”

 

In his 1865 The Yosemite Valley and the Mariposa Big Tree: A Preliminary Report Olmsted stated:

If we analyze the operations of scenes of beauty upon the mind, and consider the intimate relation of the mind upon the nervous system and the whole physical economy, the action and reaction which constantly occur between bodily and mental conditions, the reinvigoration which results from such scenes is readily comprehended. . . . The enjoyment of scenery employs the mind without fatigue and yet exercises it; tranquilizes it and yet enlivens it; and thus, through the influence of the mind over the body gives the effect of refreshing rest and reinvigoration to the whole system.

The promoters and champions of the first public parks also saw them as a means to boost the local economy and civic pride by making towns and cities attractive places to work and live. These parks were conceived as special places where all sections of society could enter free of charge and mix freely.

The City of London’s commitment to open spaces dates back to the 1870s when, in response to the rapid disappearance of many public open areas to make way for the building of new suburban homes and other developments (sounds familiar?), it embarked on an ambitious project to safeguard some of what remained. Two Acts of Parliament passed in 1878 granted the City of London the right to acquire and protect both Epping Forest and land within 25 miles of the City for the recreation and enjoyment of the public. This far-sighted policy was the inspiration behind the later Green Belt movement, designed to protect the countryside around other British cities from urban sprawl.

Meanwhile the natural landscapes further afield were similarly being valued. American geologist Ferdinand V. Hayden, while not the only person to have thought of creating a park in the Yellowstone region, was the park’s first and most enthusiastic advocate. He believed in “setting aside the area as a pleasure ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people”.

John Muir the respected Scottish-American naturalist, today referred to as the ‘Father of the National Parks’, said in 1898: “Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity; and that mountain parks and reservations are useful not only as fountains of timber and irrigating rivers, but as fountains of life.” 

 

 

Even in 1938 UK Professor G.M. Trevelyan wrote in the foreword to the Case for National Parks:

… it is no less essential for any national health scheme to preserve for the nation walking grounds and regions where young and old can enjoy the sight of unspoiled nature. And it is not a question of physical exercise only it is also a question of spiritual exercise and enjoyment. It is a question of spiritual values. Without sight of the beauty of nature the spiritual power of the British people will be atrophied!

Somewhere during the twentieth century, especially as the pace of lifestyle in industrialised Western society increased, that early rationale slowly became forgotten and, although parks have not entirely lost their connection with health, the modern emphasis has been mainly on their use as a venue for physical activity, particularly sport, or as tourism destinations. With increasing urbanisation the vital role that parks, green space and their associated biodiversity (especially in ‘convenient’ urban parks) play in offering health and well-being benefits and enhancing human appreciation becomes even more relevant, just as conserving this precious biodiversity becomes more important.

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, especially in Asia, the concept of the value of contact with nature for medicinal, cultural and spiritual reasons has been far more ingrained than in Western society. Mystic natural places like mountains are revered for their spiritual powers. Traditional outdoor exercises have been practised for at least 2000 years. Walk through any park in Japan, China, Korea and Thailand and similar countries in the morning and you’ll see people right up to age 80s doing their daily workout of stretching and strengthening together with breathing exercises and acupressure and self-massage techniques of tai chi and yoga. It is in these countries where the benefits of shinrin-yoku (forest bathing) emerged.

 

Review Status: Pending

Green space and public health – (2) Healthy parks, healthy people

Humans are deeply intertwined with nature, through both the conscious and subconscious minds as well as biophysically.

Whilst those perceptions are self-obvious, our decision-makers and funders (whether in politics or organisational management) demand evidence, not just intuition, to justify decisions about policy and budgets. Evidence is of course reliant on research and data but unfortunately for many years, parks and green space have been short on such information, in part because that research and data-gathering about human health and well-being have not been seen as core parks business. The doctrine of ‘individual responsibility’ for personal well-being has held sway, in tandem with the elevation of individual choice through markets as the dominant approach to economic policy. However, over the past two decades there have been concerted scholarly attempts to empirically examine this relationship, especially via advances the disciplines of biology, ecology, psychology and psychiatry.

Origin of ‘Healthy Parks Healthy People’

The term ‘Healthy Parks Healthy People’ was officially coined by Parks Victoria (Australia) at the beginning of this century, stimulated by its commissioned (but independent) review of the international literature, an accumulated body of evidence The Health Benefits of Contact with Nature – produced in 2002 by Deakin University. Parks Victoria progressively incorporated the concept into its strategic approach to park management. Remarkably, though the report found that there were many examples of such research, there had been no previous attempt to consolidate such work into a single benchmark official report.

The expression ‘Healthy Parks Healthy People’ is really a colloquial way of incorporating considerations of both biophilia and topophilia (see Definitions, later). The ‘Healthy Parks Healthy People’ concept has wide application. It is relevant to professionals and practitioners in public health and well-being, eco-tourism and park management generally (especially in urban areas), in both developed or developing countries, and irrespective of culture.

The approach has been introduced under a variety of names (including ‘Healthy by Nature’ and ‘Green Exercise’) by a number of park management authorities around the world – in Australia, the United States, Canada and Scotland, to name but a few. In other places the broad principles embodied by the phrase are understood and/or applied without labelling with a specific term.

The ‘Healthy Parks Healthy People’ approach is built on the understanding that the health and well-being of society depends on the health of ecosystems. Well-managed parks and green space ensure that ecosystems are healthy and resilient. Such healthy environments provide ecosystem goods and services that underpin human life, contribute to economic activity and support cohesive, vibrant and healthy societies. In particular contact with nature can improve human physical and mental health.

The ‘Healthy Parks Healthy People’ concept is underpinned by six key principles:

  1. Human health and well-being depend on healthy ecosystems.
  2. Parks conserve healthy ecosystems.
  3. Contact with nature can improve human health, both physical and mental.
  4. Parks contribute to economic activity and prosperity.
  5. Parks contribute to cohesive, vibrant and healthy societies.
  6. Conversely, promotion of human well-being will lead to greater appreciation of parks and ecosystems.

World Congress 2010

As a result of the success of its initiative Parks Victoria was encouraged to stage an international congress on the topic and this was held in Melbourne in April 2010, attracting more than 1200 delegates from 37 countries – a clear illustration of the global significance of the concept. The Congress concluded by producing The Melbourne Communiqué – a call to action!

The Chairperson, the Congress Committee and delegates of the inaugural International Healthy Parks Healthy People Congress 2010 call on:

  • The governments of the world;
  • The United Nations and its agencies (in particular UNESCO, the United Nations Environment Programme, the Convention on Biological Diversity, the UN World Tourism Organization) together with the World Health Organization, and International Union for Conservation of Nature;
  • National and international philanthropic, environmental and health organizations to adopt Healthy Parks Healthy People and make the following commitment: We commit to further our understanding of, and strengthen the connection between, nature and people. Our success depends on interdisciplinary collaboration and alliances. We as leaders in our field commit to work together to strive for a healthy planet and healthy humanity, and continue to promote, facilitate and advance the health and vitality of the world’s parks and communities. We undertake to rethink our approach to improving human and environmental health and do all in our powers to reconnect people to nature. We adopt the Healthy Parks Healthy People philosophy to protect the earth’s two most important assets – nature and people.”

As a direct result of attending this event and realising the significance, the US National Park Service promptly established its own version (Healthy Parks Healthy People U.S.).

Since that time the NPS together with U.S. Forestry Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Pan American Health Organization have established joint and several fledgling initiatives to incorporate the ‘Health Parks Healthy People’ agenda.

 Europe

The European Cooperation Scientific & Technical Research (COST) report in its 2007 strategic workshop ‘Health and the Natural Outdoors’ had already stated:

There is a convincing but widely dispersed evidence base, confirming the benefits to human health and well-being of close contact with nature, animals and plants.

  • Access to nature should be considered in public health policy in Europe;
  • Access to nature and natural places can be a central theme in promoting contemporary lifestyle-based public health approaches; and
  • Health should be a central theme in urban and land-use planning, for example, in debates about urban densification. Effort spent in developing tools and strategies that integrate healthy lifestyles into urban planning and greenspace management will be well repaid.

Other ongoing global initiatives included the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), which initiated a special task force on Forests and Human Health in 2011, an effort that connects forestry and health science professionals; and the Cooperation on Health and Biodiversity (COHAB) initiative which links biodiversity with human health and well-being within the larger framework of the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals.

 World Conservation Congress 2012

Impressed by the logic and value of the concept and the impact of the 2010 Congress, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) encouraged a consequential adopted Motion No 46 at the 2012 World Conservation Congress, which recommended:

 IUCN and its constituencies to adopt the Healthy Parks Healthy People philosophy and commit to further understanding of, and strengthen the connection between, nature and people. To work collaboratively with WHO, and other key global bodies, to implement initiatives that deliver both human health and biodiversity outcomes and continue to promote, facilitate and advance the health and vitality of the world’s parks and communities globally. To undertake research and analysis to better develop compelling rationale for the approach to all levels of policies. To forge partnerships and alliances with the health and medical care community to raise recognition of parks and protected areas as a healing tool and a vital source of health and well-being.

Ottawa Charter

The complementary source of direction for public health, the Ottawa Charter for Health Promotion (WHO, Geneva, 1986) identifies three basic strategies for health promotion: advocacy for health to create the essential conditions for health indicated above; enabling all people to achieve their full health potential; and mediating between the different interests in society in the pursuit of health. These strategies are supported by five priority action areas as outlined in the Ottawa Charter:

  • build healthy public policy
  • create supportive environments for health
  • strengthen community action for health
  • develop personal skills, and
  • re-orient health services.

Wingspread Declaration

In the US, the Wingspread Declaration on Health and Nature, July 2014 stated:

 Nature and human well-being are connected: The connection between people and the natural world is fundamental to human health, well-being, spirit, and survival. Nature is a source of food, clean water, clean air, medicine, shelter, and economic opportunity. Moreover, in order to thrive, humans require direct access to nature. Whether a city park, a community garden, a tree-lined street, or wilderness – nature in people’s daily lives reduces stress, renews the spirit, connects people to each other and increases physical activity. In short, humans are part of nature, our connection with nature is a fundamental human need, and we believe access to nature is a basic right.

 However, large numbers of people – many of them children – are now disconnected from nature. As a direct consequence, people around the world are suffering from substantial health challenges, many of them preventable. Likewise, the natural world faces increased pressures and vulnerability. The human, natural, and economic consequences of these challenges are already enormous.

 This situation calls for placing consideration of the nature-health connection at the center of research, design, and decision-making across multiple fields. Concerted, cooperative action from health, environmental, educational, governmental, and corporate actors is needed to reconnect people with nature and to secure commitment to protecting nature.

European COST

The European Cooperation Scientific & Technical Research (COST) report in its 2007 strategic workshop ‘Health and the Natural Outdoors’ had already stated:

There is a convincing but widely dispersed evidence base, confirming the benefits to human health and well-being of close contact with nature, animals and plants.

  • Access to nature should be considered in public health policy in Europe;
  • Access to nature and natural places can be a central theme in promoting contemporary lifestyle-based public health approaches; and
  • Health should be a central theme in urban and land-use planning, for example, in debates about urban densification. Effort spent in developing tools and strategies that integrate healthy lifestyles into urban planning and greenspace management will be well repaid.

City of London

Green Spaces: The Benefits for London, a report prepared for the City of London Corporation and published in July 2013 concluded:

 Returning to the question ‘What have green spaces ever done for London?’ the strongest evidence currently points to the positive impact they have on the environment and on people’s health and well-being. In addition to helping to counteract major urban sustainability challenges such as atmospheric heating, they provide space for exercise, play, events and ‘getting away from it all’. This is particularly pronounced in larger green spaces.

 It is also important to note that the far reaching environmental and health benefits created by large green spaces in and around London can be enjoyed by all of London’s residents and workers as they are public goods, and ones that contribute to London’s overall ecosystem.

Ecosystem services

Many researchers have come to the conclusion that humans are totally dependent on nature for psychological, emotional and spiritual needs as well as for material needs (food, water, shelter, etc.).

In 2013 the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health in the US produced a workshop report entitled The Natural Environments Initiative that explores how we can – and should – integrate natural elements into city plans to support public health while also providing ecosystem services, or the contributions of natural elements to the quality of human life. It envisions exposure to nature as part of a larger public health strategy captured by the acronym AIM: Advocate (access to nature for health), Invest (in equitable access), and Mediate (engage in translation between disciplines to build support beyond the health sector) – see The Natural Environments Initiative.

In Queensland, the Regional Landscape Strategy group of the State Government worked to include an ecosystem services chapter in the South East Queensland Regional Plan, which in due course gave the concept statutory force through the twon planning regime. But this pioneering work was dropped from the subsequent iteration of the plan.

Human mind and nature intertwined

Our relationship with nature is deeply intertwined with both the human conscious and subconscious mind. Recently there have been concerted attempts to empirically examine the relationship between the human mind and nature.

Research in 2016 showed that when people exercise they release a protein called BDNF (Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor) which acts as a reset switch. It is why we often feel at ease and things are clearer after exercising. The following image shows that after a 20-minute walk there is increased brain activity which is generally associated with happiness – an interesting verification of the synergy between mental and physical health.

This growing global awareness is actually a revival (as will be understood from Narrative 1 of this two-part series) of the importance of green space and nature to cohesive healthy societies. This relationship is symbiotic, but both aspects of the relationship are under threat. In much of Asia the principles of the ‘Healthy Parks Healthy People’ concept are inherent in many of the cultural and spiritual practices but as western lifestyles intrude there is a danger that the influence will be lost.

Today’s rates of urbanisation have no precedent in history. By 2045, over two-thirds of the world’s population will live in towns and cities, with most of that increase taking place in Asia and Africa. As cities expand and new cities are born, the way that urban populations, planners and innovators interact with nature will directly shape global prospects for health, well-being and human development. For the first time ever, more than half of the world’s population already live in cities and can be ‘divorced’ from regular contact with nature. In consequence they are less likely to benefit from and to appreciate the value of biodiversity and the importance of its conservation.

How many of Australians’ own cherished childhood memories relate to nature? Building a tree house, climbing trees, splashing in muddy puddles, fishing with a stick, family picnics – the list is endless. Now societal fears mean that technological games dominate leisure time and children are more often kept indoors; ever-reducing gardens too have become more formal with less play space, inevitably stifling the creativity, imagination, stimulation and activity that previous generations enjoyed from natural environments.

Our technological age has encouraged sedentary lifestyles at both work and leisure – a particular concern with the younger generation increasingly spending more time indoors, never better expressed than in the title of Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder in which he quotes a 4th grader as “I like to play indoors better ‘cause that’s where the electrical outlets are”!

This situation is occurring at the very time that human populations are increasingly suffering from many non-communicable diseases like obesity, mental ill-health and breakdowns in community cohesion, as well of course the COVID-19 epidemic which has limited travel outdoors.

Climate change, of course, is at the same time altering the ‘outdoors’.

Biodiversity has of course been endangered for some time, with loss of significant species and consequent ecosystem impacts. Even to the less informed, the visual amenity of biodiversity that parks provide is an attraction verified by the significant popularity of ecotourism destinations, which of course in turn creates economic well-being through commercial activity. Yet perversely, biodiversity is itself under increasing threat with widespread clearing of native vegetation and urban development.

For far too long parks have been considered, even by park managers themselves, as ‘nice to have’ but not essential amenities! That situation is changing. More recently there has been a re-awakening to the value of nature. The large number of people using local public parks for exercise and enjoyment during the COVID-19 epidemic of 2020-22 demonstrated their desire to get outdoors, to meet others or to enjoy nature as part of their coping and healing needs.

We are all aware that nature – the presence of living things – makes us feel good. We marvel at how artists and photographers have captured images of landscapes and wildlife. Poets and writers have incorporated these in their highly praised works. We get a thrill out of unexpectedly sighting wildlife, we enjoy a relationship with pets and we are delighted by wonderful scenic views. We use expressions like ‘don’t forget to stop and smell the roses’, indeed we use flowers to celebrate, congratulate and commiserate – all related to emotional experiences. We recognise the need to get a ‘breath of fresh air’ meaning to escape the daily rat race of urban living. More recently the concept of ‘weekend escapes’ has become popular and most of these are to the countryside! These phrases are part of our inherited lexicon. We even get pleasure from just knowing that something natural – a wilderness area, a rare bird – exists, even if we may never experience it, except perhaps on the Discovery Channel or a Sir David Attenborough documentary!

 

Review Status: Pending

Sherbrooke Forest – National icon, urban forest and sanctuary – A case study in bush regeneration

Sherbrooke Forest is an area of 802 hectares and contains three vegetation types; Wet Forest, Damp Forest and Cool Temperate Rainforest. It is surrounded by residential properties, except for part of the eastern edge which borders on farmland.

It contains the stand of Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) nearest to the city of Melbourne, and is a popular tourist destination. One of its greatest attractions is the Superb Lyrebird which are easily heard and observed along the main walking tracks.

Sherbrooke Forest became part of the newly formed Dandenong Ranges National Park in 1987. It was formerly managed by the Forests Commission as a State forest – until 1983. Since 1996, Parks Victoria has managed Sherbrooke Forest as part of the National Park under the auspices of the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning. A volunteer group, the Friends of Sherbrooke Forest, was formed in 1980 and remains an active group more than forty years later.

Fire, pines and their aftermath

There has not been a major wildfire in the forest since February 1923, when seventy-two percent of the forest was burnt. A small area on the eastern side was burnt in the 1926 wildfire. There was also a fire on Coles Ridge in 1946, which resulted in establishment of a plantation of Monterey Pines (Pinus radiata) by local schools. There was no attempt to regenerate the Mountain Ash. Other areas planted with pines were the O’Donohue Memorial Plantation, the Melbourne High School Plantation and the Sherbrooke Plantation on Ridge Track which was clear-felled in 1977 and replanted with Mountain Ash that year.

The authorities did not act to remove English Ivy in the area of the Sherbrooke Plantation from 1977 and as a result of the disturbance, English Ivy was able to establish and completely overwhelm the lower storey native vegetation, as well as climbing to great heights up the Mountain Ash. The Mountain Ash were only about ten years old when the Friends started removing English Ivy there by hand. This also occurred in other areas where timber was removed from the forest from 1904 until 1927.

In 1985, the Schools Plantation on Coles Ridge Track was removed over three years. Before any felling commenced the English Ivy vines were cut from the trees and the ground ivy was treated with herbicide. This approach was continued when the two remaining pine plantations were removed over the next two years. The slash was burnt and the areas were hand sown with Mountain Ash seed collected from trees within the forest. Thousands of pine seedlings that germinated were hand weeded by the Friends group over the next few years. The photos linked here tell the story.

The same process was used when the two remaining pine plantations were clear-felled, although the Melbourne High School Plantation required supplementary planting due to its shaded location.

Weed control

The Friends group successfully hand-weeded English Ivy from the areas where the pines were removed in the 1970s, as well as an area on the eastern side of the forest where timber was removed from 1904 to 1927. The latter area also needed herbicide control as the soil was mainly clay, making hand-weeding almost impossible, as opposed to the rich mountain loam on the western side of the forest.

Both the areas of forest where English Ivy was the dominant ground cover were not used by lyrebirds, as the dense foliage made contact with the soil impossible. Once the ivy was removed the lyrebirds returned and display mounds were discovered almost immediately. The lyrebirds even used the piles of dead ivy as a source of invertebrates for food, as well as nest construction. The area of ‘dead’ forest was brought to life.

The Friends group commenced a systematic survey of the forest’s vegetation in 1984 to determine areas of environmental weeds within the forest. Unfortunately, the result of this survey revealed that the forest was in a deplorable state. The main weeds found were English Ivy (Hedera helix), Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum), English Holly (Ilex aquifolium), Red Cestrum (Cestrum elegans) and Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus). All of these species were introduced to the Dandenongs via plant nurseries in the early 1900s. The first four species produce a berry-fruit which is eaten by birds. Sycamore Maple has a winged-seed that can be carried many miles into the forest. No weed control except for Blackberry (Rubus fruticosus), Angled Onion (Allium triquetrum) and Red Cestrum (Cestrum elegans) had been carried out in the forest for at least forty years.

While environmental weeds such Sweet Pittosporum and English Holly were not recognised as a threat to the indigenous vegetation, the increasing abundance of English Ivy was taking over valuable lyrebird feeding areas. By the time the Friends started work this plant had covered many hectares of ground on both sides of the forest.

Over the next thirty years the Friends systematically poisoned these woody weeds using the drill and fill method. The herbicide used was full-strength glyphosate. Smaller plants of Red Cestrum were removed using a mattock, although some bushes were so large that they were poisoned. The group now carries out follow-up weeding throughout the forest.

Future prospects for weed control

A forest surrounded by residential properties in which environmental weeds are grown will forever have the problem of seeding by birds. Although the local council provides information with regard to these weeds, many residents resist removing them from their gardens.

From survey maps it is possible to see the correlation of weed invasion with proximity to residential gardens. See maps of Sycamore Maple and Cestrum; and of Sweet Pittosporum and English Holly. These weed distribution survey maps are from 1984 (when the survey commenced) to 2001 (when it finished). The group surveyed every second Sunday of every second month over this time. (It always prioritised weed control). Maps also show the abundance of English Ivy in areas disturbed by the planting of Monterey Pine and timber felling: see maps linked here.

Lyrebirds

In 1983, lyrebird numbers were dramatically reduced when eleven birds were killed within a few months. Predation by foxes, wandering domestic dogs and cats were thought to be the cause. Although there was a general outcry by the public, it was not until 1988 that the local council and the then Department of Conservation, Forests and Lands set up a working group to give advice on ways to halt this decline.

Recommendations by the Advisory Committee included registration of cats, a dusk to dawn curfew for cats, and the limiting of two cats and two dogs per property. Altogether, five drafts were submitted to the Council over four years. In June 1991, the Animal Welfare Local Law was finally passed. Although controversial at the time, the law was accepted by most residents. Parks Victoria also instigated a program to poison foxes. Since then, the lyrebird population has stabilised and wallaby numbers in the forest have increased. The Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group monitors lyrebirds throughout the year, as well as holding three dawn surveys during June and July. Young lyrebird chicks are banded while in the nest, so the group can track where they move as adult birds.

The Friends of Sherbrooke Forest and management authorities

This group was formed under the Forests Commission of Victoria in 1980. Work parties were held once a month in areas suggested by the Ranger-in-charge. The group quickly developed a good working relationship with the staff. Once trust had developed on both sides, the group was given permission to work in areas that had been discovered during the Friends vegetation surveys. A ranger always put in an appearance at these work parties and worked alongside the group.

When the Forests Commission of Victoria was dissolved in 1983, the Forester-in Charge at Kallista remained in his position, retiring in 1985. The superseding agency was the Department of Conservation Forests and Lands. The Friends continued to have a good relationship with the new staff. One constant throughout the Friends volunteer work in the forest was the continued presence of the Head Ranger. This individual had started work with the Forests Commission when he was fifteen years old. His final position was Head Ranger of the Dandenong Ranges National Park, until he retired at fifty-five years of age. He now is a regular volunteer with the Friends.

Sambar Deer

In 1996, a member of the Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group came face to face with a large Sambar Deer. This was the first actual sighting, though some Friends had wondered what was browsing the lower branches of English Holly in the eastern side of the forest. As their numbers increased, the damage they caused to the native vegetation became more evident. The impacts of deer include long term changes to vegetation and plant communities, such as:

(a)       Browsing of ground ferns along creek corridors causing:

  • compaction of soil on frequently used tracks
  • erosion along creek banks
  • silting and sedimentation in creeks.

(b)       Pruning of lower understorey shrubs such as the native Coprosma quadrifida almost to the ground by deer, resulting in an unnaturally open forest. This means that lyrebirds are more exposed to predators such as foxes and feral cats.

(c)       Trampling of indigenous vegetation resulting in poor regeneration of native species.

(d)       Fouling of water in creeks by deer faeces, possibly introducing viruses that deer are known to carry and creating bogs where they wallow.

(e)       Competing with wallabies and wombats for food.

(f)       Antler rubbing on Sassafras trees resulting in ring-barking and eventual death of the tree.

(g) Destruction of valuable species of vegetation. The Cool Temperate Rainforest Community within the forest is being threatened. Deer tend to follow creeks throughout the forest. Therefore, any damage to creek vegetation will inevitably see the disappearance of this plant community, already threatened in Victoria. Deer browse the fronds of tree-ferns within their reach continually, resulting in their demise.

In 2014, Parks Victoria commenced a deer control program, but used only volunteer shooters from the Sporting Shooters’ Association. After four years it was decided to cease this program as the number of deer being shot in the last year was zero. The Friends have maintained that for the program to be a success it would be necessary to contract professional deer shooters, and close the Park for a period of time until numbers had been reduced.

Conclusion

Although Sherbrooke Forest is a relatively ‘young’ forest as a result of the 1923 wildfire, the threats posed by environmental weeds escaping from residential gardens will be a continuing problem.

A severe storm on 9 June 2021 blew over many mature Mountain Ash and Blackwood trees (Acacia melanoxylon), thus opening up the forest to more light and threatening the Sassafras trees (Atherosperma moschatum) in the Sherbrooke Creek gully. Many of the mature eucalypts would have been home for both possum and owl species.

If deer numbers are not controlled the structure of the forest will inevitably be changed, resulting in the loss of both indigenous flora and fauna.

The State Government must increase funding to improve the natural values of the forest. At present, funding has not been available to replace bridges destroyed by falling trees. Staff numbers are kept to a minimum, resulting on poor compliance of the public, who regularly walk their dogs along the forest tracks. The recent storm will cost thousands to clean up regular walking tracks, let alone to restore the damaged areas.

Like so many volunteer groups, the Friends of Sherbrooke Forest are an ageing group with the majority of active members being in their late seventies. Who will watch over this beautiful forest once they are unable to volunteer?

Further reading

The Friends of Sherbrooke Forest. 2000 & 2008. Sherbrooke Forest – its flora and history.

 

Friends of Sherbrooke Forest, Department of Conservation, Forests & Lands. 1989. Weeds of forests, roadsides and gardens : a field guide in colour for students, naturalists and land managers. Belgrave, Victoria.

Freshwater, Vivien. 2020. History of the Friends of Sherbrooke Forest 1980-2020. Friends of Sherbrooke Forest.

Review Status: Pending

World Urban Parks and Knowledge Hub

About

World Urban Parks (WUP) is the international representative body for urban parks, open space and the recreation sector. WUP connects world leaders through key strategic initiatives and champions the benefits and best practice of parks around the world. Its mission is to promote and support effective management and use of urban parks, open space and recreation world-wide. It also aspires to complement and attain the same level of recognition as the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which represents protected areas on the world stage. WUP is also a forum for the exchange of ideas on common environmental, social and economic challenges where urban parks, open space and recreation are part of the solution. To achieve this, WUP acts as an umbrella to national associations, which interconnects park agencies, non-governmental organisations, universities and research institutes – from the Asia-Pacific, North America, Europe and emerging cities.

Members

In 2018-19 of the 467 individual members to the WUP, the Asia-Pacific region supplied 35% of total members, North America 29% and Europe 27%. Over half (56%) of the 97 organisational members were from park/city agencies, and 24% from national peak bodies/professional associations. Becoming a member opens program and professional development opportunities to improve recreation and parks in community settings and ensures members become part of the WUP mission to build open space and recreation world-wide.

The Significance of Urban Parks

In 2009, for the first time ever, the world’s population became more urban than rural. By 2050, around two-thirds of all people will live in cities and urban populations will grow by more than 2 billion people. Cities are major contributors to climate change. According to UN Habitat, cities consume 78% of the world’s energy and produce more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions. Yet, they account for less than 2% of the Earth’s surface. With the implications of climate change for the world’s biodiversity, conservation and protected areas, natural areas are vital to the biodiversity of the world’s unique flora and fauna. It is therefore imperative to ensure cities are liveable and that everyone has access to urban parks and green space.

History of WUP

It is no secret that the interconnectedness and unity of institutions such as WUP, is strengthened through a network of partnerships and affiliations. The concept of WUP came to fruition in 2015 out of a strategic review of the International Federation of Parks and Recreation Administration (IFPRA) and the International Urban Parks and Green Space Alliance (Parks for Life) in conjunction with other stakeholders.

IFPRA

The IFPRA was a unique international organisation representing and providing a forum for people, organisations and cities managing parks, recreation and conservation. It emerged at the first International Congress of the Institute of Parks Administration in London in 1957. During an open meeting at this Congress, at which there were 742 delegates, 609 from the UK and 133 from other countries, the IFPRA was created.

World Parks Academy

Established in 2013, the World Parks Academy (WPA) is a collaboration between WUP the open space and recreation organisation, and Indiana University, one of the United States’ leading universities in the field of parks, recreation, health and tourism. The IFPRA was absorbed into the WPA in 2015 and united under an international certifying body. The WPA provides competency-based certification and training programs for parks and recreation professionals worldwide. The WUP is also affiliated with WPA, through certification programs with Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, South Africa and the USA.

Strategic Direction

WUP is constituted (World Urban Parks Constitution) as a non-governmental, non-profit membership-based peak body. From commencement on 1 April 2015, initial directors were appointed from full members. The Board and the Executive developed clear strategic directions for World Urban Parks, resulting in the World Urban Parks Strategic Statement 2018 . The WUP’s strategic priorities fall under four main themes:

  • Advocacy
  • Alliances
  • Collaboration
  • Membership.

The Strategic Statement aims to achieve responsibilities regarding World Urban Parks’ contribution to the United Nations Sustainability Goals. The primary goals to which World Urban Parks directly contribute include:

  • Good Health and Well-being
  • Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • Climate Action
  • Life below Water
  • Life on Land
  • Partnerships for the Goals.

Key Achievements and Initiatives

The Melbourne Statement  

On the policy front, WUP has been actively promoting the value and benefits of urban parks and green spaces through the development of The Melbourne Statement (2018) in response to the World Urban Parks congress that lays out key principles in conjunction with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In the statement, the Melbourne 2018 International Parks and Leisure Congress (IPLC) in partnership with Parks and Leisure Australia focused on addressing the pressing global impact and challenges that urban growth and density will have on the future. It outlined many of the challenges, but also addressed how the sector can comprehensively respond to ensure that open spaces are protected, communities improved, and lifestyles enhanced.

The Statement of Collaboration  

At the International Parks and Leisure Congress in Melbourne, hosted by Parks and Leisure Australia, World Urban Parks and the International Union for Conservation and Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas entered a Statement of Collaboration. This Statement of Collaboration between WUP and the IUCN aims to advance a shared vision for inspiring and empowering people from all walks of life around the world to nurture and connect with nature, parks, and protected areas in and around urban areas.

World Urban Parks Congress

Among many of the initiatives developed by WUP is the World Urban Parks Congress. The Congress of city and community leaders, park professionals, partners, affiliates, and engaged citizens meets annually under the shared goal of advancing parks through intentional successful strategies. Emerging issues under discussion at the 2020 Tirana Congress and the 2021 virtual World Congress include the legacy for cities and communities in the face of global challenges from COVID19 to Climate Change.

Case Study – World Urban Parks Congress in Kazan, Russia (2019)

Kazan is a Russian city and the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. Kazan is identified as a growing, dynamic city with significant opportunities for improved liveability; Kazan has already been placed in the top 10 most sustainably developed cities in the Russian Federation.

Since 2016 the Institute for Urban Development of the Republic of Tatarstan has been implementing the Program for the Development of Public Spaces, under which more than 300 parks, embankments, pedestrian streets, public gardens and squares in all municipal districts of the region were improved.

The principles of sustainable development are reflected in Kazan’s long-term development strategies — from transport, housing and energy- saving technologies to the support of park, cultural and social programs.

Access World Urban Parks Congress Report for a debrief and review of the World Urban Congress Report, Kazan (2019).

Emerging Urban Leaders Program

Another program affiliated with WUP is the Emerging Urban Leaders Program , which addresses the growing demand for access to nature in urban spaces. The program is designed to create and build connections with urban leaders. An emerging urban leader is one who is new to urban parks work, has an idea but not a platform to build upon or is changing careers. Launched in 2021, this initiative has already created a network that includes architects, urban planners, community organisers, policymakers and conservationists, who are matched with mentors to develop innovative solutions and quality cities of the future. The program runs for 12 months with the goal of establishing two-hour monthly working meetings for cohort members to collaborate together.

Knowledge Hub

The World Urban Parks Knowledge Hub (the ‘Knowledge Hub’) is an international platform that supports and informs policy, planning, decision making and contemporary good practices in urban parks. The Knowledge Hub highlights current and emerging themes in the sector, linking international guidelines with research and fostering collaboration among leading agencies and organisations. The Knowledge Hub also houses information on Parks of the World. The Knowledge Hub is initially divided into three sectors: Research and Knowledge, Yardstick Parks, and Parks of the World . The Knowledge Hub also promotes good practice and encourages the sharing of information and knowledge and supports approaches to benchmarking and setting standards such as Yardstick.

Review Status: Pending

Parkland surrendered at time of subdivision

In the late 1990s, the planning profession in Australia became enthusiastic about performance-based planning, by which applicants for development were supposed to justify their projects in terms of satisfaction of idealised principles, as distinct from the prescriptive planning by which applicants hitherto were required to satisfy detailed or at least specified standards. Whether by design or as an unintended consequence, this shift has been beneficial to the property industry as it placed local government officers and public servants on the defensive in attempting to condition developments so that ample public space is brought into public ownership to cater for the needs of new residents.

Practice between local governments and between states has long been disparate. In Victoria, the legislation specified a minimum charge and some local governments used the provision to extract large tracts of open space. For example, the  Shire of Sherbrooke negotiated sometimes as much as 90% open space contribution, in steep or fire-prone localities of the Dandenong Ranges (such as became the Selby Bushland Reserve). By contrast, in Queensland prior to 1997, legislation specified a maximum statutory charge, reflecting the state’s pro-development ethos.

In developing localities, it’s vital that sufficiently large corridors of land are reserved for public purposes and it’s particularly important that floodplains, wetlands and ridgelines be reserved from incompatible development and (in the case of watercourses) to allow space for soft engineering works to manage stormwater.

The Land Planning Branch of the Queensland Department of Natural Resources sought to draft some guidelines for planning officers in local governments and departmental staff in dealing with development applications. The intention was to provide an authoritative benchmark to fortify officers in negotiations with developers and even perhaps in court. Jeremy Addison, a qualified planner and an officer of the Department, produced a draft working paper that was not considered finalised and was not published by the Department. It is replete with references to the statutory planning and land tenure legislation in operation in Queensland in the late 1990s-early 2000s, after the passage of the (now superseded) Integrated Planning Act 1997. It is included here because there are few known similar guidelines in public circulation and so the paper has contemporary value beyond historical interest. Its shortcomings should not be attributed to Mr Addison.

 

The “Parkland Surrender” paper addresses how much land should be offered up for public purposes in new subdivisions like this site of a proposed estate at Caboolture West, South East Queensland.

 

Surrender by developers is not the only method and perhaps not the most effective method of securing public open space. Melbourne’s metropolitan parks system, including Petty’s demonstration orchard at Templestowe, was funded by a general “metropolitan improvement” rate.

 

Some notes

In Queensland, performance-based planning was introduced in the Integrated Planning Act 1997, modelled on the Resource Management Act of New Zealand, although without any provisions for allocating (privatising) state land or mineral assets.

Previous legislation had specified that land taken at subdivision was to be surrendered to the Crown and then (usually) reserved for public purposes with the local government being invited to serve as trustee. Local governments objected to this safety net provision which provided a brake against disposal of the parkland, because (they argued) it was easier to rationalise their park holdings and sell isolated pockets if held as freehold. Yes, small pockets of land are inherently more expensive to maintain than a comparable acreage added to a large district park, but they are serving a different clientele.

It has been argued that land surrendered at subdivision is a tax upon the future residents, so only land of benefit to them should be taken; in other words government has no right to levy developers on behalf of users in a regional or or remote catchment. However, subdivision is a privilege, not a right, and a district- or regional-scale surrender is appropriate, so long as the levy is for a public interest purpose and is permitted by the legislation. (The precise wording of the legislation is critical).

Invitation to planners and landscape designers

Critical feedback is invited from any person with survey or planning expertise and who would like to collaborate with PaRC in building the working paper Parkland Surrender at Time of Subdivision into a modern guideline applicable across Australia, New Zealand and Pacific Islands. Please contact parc@parcaustralia.com.au. PaRC would also like to know of other comparable current or historical guidelines that can be re-published here.

 

Review Status: Pending

Open Space Planning in SEQ – 1994-2021

More than 25 years after the creation of a regional open space network was recommended in the SEQ2001 Regional Plan, South East Queensland does not have a regional park system or any coordinated network of recreational open space worth the name. The narrative of what-might-have-been is a story of opportunities lost, at least three times over.

 

Purlingbrook Falls adjacent to the rainforest purchased under ROSS in 1994 – G. Edwards

Continue Reading

Review Status: Pending

History of parks and recreation in Australia

This narrative has been lightly edited from a draft written in 1994 by the late Frank Keenan, a co-Founder of the AIPR Trust Fund-Education. It has aged well.

Introduction

Initial development of the parks and gardens of Australia and the recreation movement was dominated by two major influences. Firstly the British heritage of the original settlers led to the desire that the new colonies would contain those elements of their home country which they most cherished. Prominent among these was their gardens, both private and public, which were the result of the interest in horticulture at all levels of government and the society generally. Thus Australia inherited the skills of the excellently-trained horticultural artisans and garden planners in the same manner as the other British colonies in the seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. So the traditional English landscape including its associated plant species became an integral part of the towns and cities. The environment of the urban areas of Australia has been widely characterised by the contrast between the surrounding countryside and the parks, gardens and street trees of the towns and cities.

Secondly has been the development of recreation. Unlike horticulture, in which the government and community bodies set aside land for public parks and gardens, assisted in the development of these areas and helped finance the procurement of plants, the recreation groups were established by voluntary workers from within the community. In the early years the government assistance was limited to actions ensuring the survival of the colony. Then followed the development of the essential services for community life. Consequently, people themselves using the pioneering spirit common to the early settlers established their own leisure activities, using land, water and any other resources that were available.

 

Evolution of horticultural styles

With few exceptions the native flora is evergreen with a high percentage of eucalyptus and offering a landscape completely different from that introduced by the British colonists. The first towns of Sydney and Hobart were developed as penal settlements and since their administrators came from military and seafaring backgrounds, they had little knowledge of conservation and horticulture and it was not until the arrival of the first settlers that there was any substantial movement in establishing parks and gardens. Thus as the early surveyors developed the town plans, areas were set aside for public open space and the new settlers began building their new environment using the ingredients dear to their heart. Thus, today in our earliest-developed localities, the prevailing trees are deciduous types which, with the aid of irrigation and the absence of natural predators, have flourished. However by the beginning of the second half of the 20th century many changes to this pattern had evolved. Australians have now begun to understand and treasure their indigenous plants resulting in firstly, conservation measures being taken to ensure the protection of native flora and secondly, the use of these native plants as part of their horticultural planning in new developments. This philosophy is now being put into practice by the introduction of tertiary education in such fields as town planning and landscape architecture, together with Australia-wide training in associated crafts such as apprenticeship schemes.

 

Recreation

The development of people’s leisure time activities in the early years was entirely dependent on their own motivation. Those open spaces being provided by government were preserved for environmental and aesthetic purposes with recreation limited to such things as walking, socialising over refreshments in the tea house and listening to the local brass band. All forms of sporting activity were forbidden in such places. Thus as the colonists formed their sporting groups and similar leisure-time community organisations, they either used private land and buildings or lobbied the government, including local authorities, for permission to reserve Crown land for community purposes. It was not until the early twentieth century that financial assistance began to be made available to assist in the development of playing fields and associated buildings. Because these recreation grounds were developed by sporting administrators with little knowledge of landscape design, and without finance to seek outside assistance, these sporting areas contributed little to the community environment. It is only from about the late 1960s that planning controls have been exercised and sports fields have become elements of town plans, complete with landscaping standards and maintenance programs.

The work of organising these sporting groups was performed by members of the public in their own time and at their own expense. This pattern of volunteer organisation in all forms of sport involving every age group has now developed with possibly the leading example of volunteer community action in the western world. As the facilities became more sophisticated and sporting bodies more competitive, the spirit of the original pioneers became the driving force that propelled Australia into world prominence in sporting spheres. Again this movement has been greatly assisted by the accepted practice by which leading sportsmen and women, after standing down from active participation, returned to their clubs as coaches and administrators, thus providing a role model for the younger generation to follow and to ensure that national standards were maintained.

In those cultural fields associated with community leisure, the pattern of volunteers ‘participation was similar to those of sporting activities. However the heritage of the early British settlers ensured that their traditions were followed: a new land with more affluent residents becoming financial patrons of the arts. With this background, successful organisations were established in both the performing and the graphic arts. However as in other western societies, higher taxation on private families saw bodies struggling to exist and in 1968, the federal government established the Australian Council for the Arts. This meant that for the first time in the country, government accepted the responsibility of organising and heavily subsidising the arts movement. These actions also ensured that the artists themselves were given every opportunity of earning a reasonable salary including their employment as teachers and coaches.

 

Parks management

In the latter part of the twentieth century, the management of parks and recreation systems has undergone considerable changes. Traditionally the administration of urban public open spaces has been vested in local government. The greater proportion of this land is publicly owned, classified as Crown land with the ultimate control of its use resting with the appropriate state government minister. The local council is commonly nominated as the trustee to manage the land; however in specific cases independent trusts who bypass the council but are still responsible to the minister have been established.

Until recently councils were comparatively small structures with the Town Clerk or the Chief Executive Officer being the General Manager and the City Engineer being responsible for the outdoor activities. This work covered the parks, gardens and open spaces and to assist him the council employed a superintendent of parks and gardens, who performed the role of the city gardener under the British concept of that period. It was only in the state capital cities that the parks departments were operated as autonomous bodies with the chief officer answerable to the council.

Today [~1994] these routines are in the process of change. In several states, including those of the eastern seaboard in which the greater proportion of the population resides, local government is being reorganised. The smaller councils in New South Wales have been amalgamated into much larger bodies and in Victoria a similar exercise is taking place. These moves will have obvious effects on parks and gardens management and staffing arrangements.

Two other changes in the higher echelon of council employment are also having an influence in this field. Firstly is the emergence of the town planner as a major force in the development of new areas and reconstruction of the older cities. This person is now taking over the planning of the open spaces and employing landscape architects, formerly working with the parks and gardens sections. Likewise has been the emergence of the municipal recreation officer. This particular move has seen a change in the city gardener philosophy with a parks and gardens responsibility being limited to maintenance. Today the Australian tradition of reliance of volunteers in organising its leisure activities is now being boosted by the employment of professionally trained staff.

Another change affecting local government is the move to privatise the staff in the construction and maintenance of parks and gardens. Currently [1994] council officers are undergoing educational training to ensure that new policy can be effectively implemented.

Other forms of open space used for specific purposes including zoological gardens, foreshores and cemeteries are not usually operated by councils. As these community facilities were developed in the pioneering days when local government was in its infancy, state governments accepted the responsibility and commonly established independent trusts consisting of leading members of the community, together with those having the necessary professional and technical skills. Such bodies were directly responsible to the minister and many are still in existence today.

There is also a limited number of privately-owned parks, notably golf courses, racing tracks and sports stadiums, usually managed by private recreation clubs. In the main, these bodies have purchased their own land, although in a number of instances Crown land has been made available under controlled conditions.

Finally, in the latter part of the twentieth century, there has been a marked increase in tourist resorts ranging from those centred around the sea and sunshine, to specific theme parks and those built around recreation features with the emphasis on golf courses, many of which are of international championship standard. There is little doubt that these type of recreation facilities will increase as the tourist industry in Australia increases in order to meet the demands of the nearby Asian countries, Japan in particular.

 

Role of the Royal Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation (now Parks and Leisure Australia)

The original moves to co-ordinate the horticultural industry in Australia date from the early days of colonisation. It was then that the first horticultural societies were formed, but it was not until 1926 that the managers of public open spaces met to establish their own group. This new body originally named the Victorian Tree Planters Association, was to set up in that State, its foundation members being a mix of politicians, nurseryman and curators of parks, gardens and street plantations. The Association became the Victorian Institute of Parks Administration in 1955. In 1962 it expanded nationally as the Australian Institute of Park Administration, and in 1965, it was reconstituted to become the Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation. In 1977 it was granted the royal charter to become the Royal Australian Institute of Parks and Recreation (RAIPR).

During the latter part of the nineteenth century the planning concept of the ‘garden city’ was introduced to Australia after successful ventures in the United Kingdom. A suburb of Melbourne developed according to garden city principles between 1926 and 1948 still carries that name. Town planners adapted to this movement by specifying the quarter-acre allotment for each individual home and the average Australian used most of this land to develop the house garden. Thus the urban areas of residential use virtually became one large garden in which houses were erected, and the effect has been very satisfactory, particularly amongst the more prosperous and house-proud residents. Thus it was not surprising that in 1975 the State Government promoted Victoria as the Garden State and appointed a Garden State Committee as an advisory body to ensure the development of this character. The most tangible evidence of this action was the words on all motor vehicles registration plates, Victoria Garden State.

In all of these initiatives the Institute has been involved. In its early years, it led by example in organising tree planting schemes bordering major highways, and arboreta in which to conduct tree trials. Further, its annual conferences have had a major influence in the interaction between politicians and park managers.

The Institute was the first group in the nation to recognise the public recreation movement, in 1965, at least six years before all levels of government introduced ministries and departments of recreation and leisure activities. It modified its constitution and changed its name. As such it ensured compatibility between the old and its new disciples operating in the same field, and was well equipped to be represented in those advisory bodies established by both the federal Government and the state authorities.

 

Review Status: Pending

Green Flag Awards and National Park Cities

The Green Flag Award Scheme

Parks and open spaces are at the heart of communities. The Green Flag Award Scheme is an accreditation given to publicly accessible parks and open spaces, that seeks to promote standards of good management and best practice among the green space sectors. In 1997, when the first Green Flag was awarded, the green space sector in the United Kingdom was in a parlous state.  Decades of underfunding had left many once proud and beautiful historic city-centre parks derelict, dangerous, no-go areas, and many other green spaces were neglected or barely maintained.  Experts with a shared interest in promoting natural spaces from a range of backgrounds came together in response to this decline.

Today, the Green Flag Award is managed under licence from the UK Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government by ‘Keep Britain Tidy’; a not-for-profit environmental charity which also administers the scheme in England.  Keep Britain Tidy also sub-licenses the scheme in other countries. The Green Flag Award Scheme recognises and rewards well-managed parks and green spaces, setting the benchmark standard for management of recreational outdoor spaces across the United Kingdom and around the world. As highlighted in the report, Celebrating Amazing Spaces (2016), the scheme has delivered change not only in the green spaces sector, but also for university campuses, cemeteries and crematoria, housing associations, hospitals and canals and waterways. A report by the Heritage Lottery Fund (2016), titled State of UK’s Public Parks, indicates that 34 million people visit a park regularly in the UK. To put this into context, more people visited a park each year than voted in the 2015 UK general election.

Each year parks, reserves and green spaces are nominated for the Green Flag Award. To be a successful Green Flag Award winner, industry experts assess the nominated parks against 27 different criteria divided into eight sections. This includes a ‘welcoming place’, ‘healthy, safe and secure’, ‘well maintained and clean’, ‘environmental management’, ‘biodiversity, landscape and heritage’, ‘community involvement, ‘marketing and communication’ and finally, ‘overall management’.

Green Flag Awards Australia

On 24 November 2021, the Australian 2021 award recipients at the Parks and Leisure Australia Awards of Excellence were announced. Across Australia, City Parklands (Qld) (Roma Street and South Bank Parklands), Western Down Regional Council (Qld), Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council (NSW) (Queanbeyan and Queen Elizabeth II Park), City of Greater Bendigo (Vic) and City of Campbelltown (SA) were recognised as nation-leading examples of the eight criterion sections of the Green Flag Award. Winning a Green Flag Award brings with it a wealth of benefits, from the status of being affiliated with a prestigious awards programme through to tangible benefits such as boosting tourism and creating revenue opportunities. Upgrading a site to achieve Green Flag status can, for example, bring about improvements to health and education, reduce crime and improve the general cleanliness of an area, whilst at the same time providing a boost to its profile. Additionally, improving facilities at a park/green space and engaging more with the local community can have a knock-on effect to the regeneration of an area.

Movements like the Green Flag Award are needed if parks and open spaces are to raise the standard of achievement for the environment and well-being of communities.

National Park Cities

The Green Flag Award Scheme has led to other movements such as the National Park City Foundation, which was established as a registered charity in the UK to promote the idea of bringing ‘National Park Cities’ to life in London and internationally. According to the United Nations, two-thirds of people will live in urban areas by 2050. With 70% of the global population predicted to be living in cities by 2050, the need to have wildlife, nature and biodiversity in our cities has never been more crucial for our well-being and existence. The ambition by the international NGO World Urban Parks to establish 25 National Park Cities by 2025 worldwide is testament to this. In fact, Adelaide has already risen to the challenge.

In December 2021, a formal announcement was made by the  global National Park City Foundation that Adelaide had been named the world’s second National Park City, enhancing the city’s reputation as the most liveable in Australia. The South Australian Minister for Environment and Water remarked that, Adelaide National Park City status isn’t just another title for our city, it is a trigger to promote and connect people with on-ground action to look after our environment for everyone’s health and wellbeing, as well as boost our economy through increased tourism.”

(The title National Park City reflects the distinctive UK meaning of the term National Park which encompasses private land, unlike Australian usage which has traditionally been confined to public land. The UK national park is analogous to a zone within an Australian planning scheme).

The legacy of the Green Flag Award scheme has also sparked the establishment of the ‘Green Flag Award Knowledge Day’ as part of the World Parks Congress which took place in December 2021. The international online event was organised by World Urban Parks and hosted virtually by several major cities: Los Angeles (USA), San Pedro (Mexico) and Sydney (Australia). The Congress  brought together city and community leaders, park professionals, partners, affiliates and engaged citizens under the shared goal of advancing parks through intentional successful strategies.

Green Spaces Resources Hub

As part of the ‘Knowledge Day’, many speakers provided reference documents to be uploaded free onto the Green Spaces Resources Hub, which was launched at the 2020 World Parks Congress, as a comprehensive library curated from all over the word. Database platforms like this that are made publicly available, help foster and enhance knowledge worldwide on the environmental challenges still facing park management, but can also be used as a forum to celebrate and recognise the continued professionalism of urban landscape management and maintenance. The Hub has also allowed public access to the latest park-related research findings, events and collaboration opportunities from academic and research organisations across the globe. Following on from that success, and in partnership with the Universities of Leeds and Sheffield it was announced during the congress that the Green Flag Award will be launching the next stage of knowledge exchange – The Parks and Green Spaces Research Portal.

The Hub and the Portal are fulfilling a function on an international scale that PaRC aims to fulfil for Australian and Western Pacific resources.

Review Status: Pending

Glen Rock Master Plan

When staff of the Land Planning Branch of the Department of Lands, managers of the Regional Open Space System from its commencement in 1994, recommended that the Glen Rock property in the Gatton hinterland be purchased for public purposes, the intended purpose was as a demonstration cattle property. Given its proximity to the metropolis, the range of vegetation types from Creek Flats to mountaintops and the sensitivity of the land to soil erosion, it was considered that it would make an excellent facility to showcase landcare principles and practice. This was consistent with development as a regional park. Continue Reading

Review Status: Pending

Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre: Wilderness pedagogy

Karawatha means the ‘place of pine trees’ in Yugambeh, the local Aboriginal language. This precious area traverses Brisbane City Council and Logan City Council, eighteen kilometres south of the Brisbane city centre. This is an important National Estate area: historically for Indigenous peoples; ecologically for endemic and IUCN red-listed species; technically for early settlers with mining and water storage; socially for family recreation and tourist sightseeing; environmentally as a nature refuge with diverse ecosystems and also as a wetlands habitat for Brisbane ‘living lungs’ carbon sequestration; and economically as a community investment for future generations to learn about wilderness.

Karawatha was an integral part of the Flinders-Greenbank-Karawatha (FGK) green belt for South-east Queensland stretching from historic Redlands through Brisbane, Logan, Beaudesert and Ipswich municipalities to Flinders Peak. Over thirty years, the community was instrumental in the donation, bequest and buy-back of 1000 hectares of land from diverse stakeholders in order to keep the Karawatha Forest corridor intact. High-value biologically-diverse habitats include many of those twenty-five identified ecosystems registered for South-east Queensland (NRM, 2006). The wetlands of the Logan Shire contrast sharply against the dry landscapes and rocky pinnacle overlooking five surrounding townships. For an intricate map, click here (soon – not yet active).

This narrative focuses on the evolution, design, development and management of the Discovery Centre, respecting original Council by-laws, but subsequently evolving into much more: a purpose-built facility for community and environmental education focused on the interaction of children with the natural realm. This was a major step forward for innovative experiential learning. The Karawatha Forest Protection Society was pivotal to the process.

 

Understanding community attitudes

The multicultural population in the local towns shared their perspective of the Australian bush as a ‘dangerous place’ with spiders in every tree, snakes everywhere, ‘drop bears’, nasty amoeba in every waterhole, biting insects, sunburn leading to skin cancer and predatory raptors swooping their children from the sky. Several members of the Karawatha Forest Protection Society (KFPS) conducted multicultural sessions for appreciation of the bush, firstly in local libraries and then in the forest itself. On KFPS community picnic days, wildlife rangers and television personalities allowed fearful families to understand more, as children embraced lizards and felt furry animals, while parents and grandparents were petrified. In some cases, those Asian families had lived generations in concrete jungles with no exposure to the natural benefits of wilderness. To see attitudes change from fear to a healthy appreciation was significant and reassuring. This strongly influenced the principles for designing the ‘Eco-centre’ project.

The KFPS surveyed 107 users of the forest at the Acacia Road entrance, the local school principal and the church elders who were riparian land owners. Responses were collated on a matrix of desirable design features by staged development timeframes of two years, five years, ten years, 30 years and 100 years. The intent was a design for sustainable public place-making.

The design brief

Every fortnight for many months, representatives met with KFPS and Council departments to refine desirable outcomes, operating expectations, environmental impacts, community involvement and funding. The staff became enthusiastic project leaders. The design brief was for future generations:

  • interacting with the natural systems within the forest;
  • conquering ‘nature deficit disorder’;
  • demonstrating nature play and exercise programs for all ages and abilities;
  • understanding ancient Indigenous stewardship and spirituality of the place;
  • incorporating scientific studies with new technology for day and night eco-auditing for many international stakeholders interested in rare and endemic species;
  • providing dedicated space for onsite education and training and community meetings;
  • undertaking cultural awareness sessions with some historical recognition;
  • incorporating low-environmental-impact free facilities (drinking water, toilets, buildings, family picnic areas, playgrounds, educational walks, GPS-assisted wayfinding with language translations, signage, and broader community spaces);
  • integrating with the natural environment with minimal disruptive footprint; and
  • facilitating safe use of the forest (minimising night crimes and unauthorised fires, mitigating fire risk to new townhouse development adjacent to the school and managing traffic safely).

7-senses approach to play

This also capitalised on the project where attention-deficit children would undertake a supervised six-week-programme with nature immersion (Tooth & Renshaw, 2017), which continuously resulted high success rates for permanent improvement in children’s behaviour. This further exemplified the values of the Last Child in the Woods (Louv, 2005) with the movement to address nature-deficit-disorder emerging from people having no connection to natural landscapes, as globally urbanisation affected half the world’s population. Teachers, PhD students, Queensland Environmental Educators’ school champions, outdoor education practitioners and parents were keen to see the latest thinking put into practice.

The ‘Nature Play’ playgrounds were not a favourite for public risk assessors at the time. However there were global innovations with successful case studies to support inclusion. Furthermore, providing for physically and intellectually impaired children, and for the ageing and disabled people generally, became a priority. This emerged as Queensland Parliament signed the United Nations Declaration for Rights of the Disabled Persons applying to all designs for public spaces. This resulted in achievement of the 7-senses approach to play (Volbert). Senses include sight, smell, touch, sound, taste and two extra for children on the autism spectrum – vestibular (for gravity, balance and movement) and proprioception (for deep-sense coordination and muscle interaction). So, the plan embraced indoor and outdoor learning techniques.

The outcome

The Discovery Centre (aka Eco-centre) comprises a low-maintenance building planned for a century asset-life, designed to integrate into the forest and community space in the recreational parklands. The building itself houses drink fountains, an artist-in-resident space, training room with community meeting space, sanitation, maintenance shed, ranger’s office with tourism reception area and most importantly the multi-purpose space for community engagement and interactive learning for school children.

Upon entry, many languages welcome the visitor and then hologram frogs on waterlilies with babbling water bring the space to life. A video scans the space. The interactive parts deserve further explanation.

By air: A drone acts as a wedge-tail eagle complete with wing flapping and windy sound effects as we lie on a padded bench to assume the role of the raptor surveying all that lies below on the 1000 hectares, across the Compton Road overpass (designed to prevent animal deaths on the busy freight road), the glider ladders straddling the transport canyon, the hidden underpass where reptiles slither in the drain while amphibians hop and clamber across ledge ‘furniture’, the reservoir, the waterhole, the quarry scars, the rocky lookout, the buzzing wetland swamps with diverse foliage and birdlife, the old cemetery and surrounding townships. But most striking is the raw bush, sometimes dry, rocky and harsh, sometimes wet and abundant.

By day and night: For a day in the life of the forest, a room with padded seats quickly introduces us to the local species with the sounds, sights and movements complete with cicada heralding the heat before a lightning storm and peaceful dawning glory. The fast-motion immersion makes senses react.

By curiosity: Small boxes beckon children to feel things inside to identify as they learn in this safe environment. Play School-style windows and panels open to the stories of native bees, furry animals, pine cones and fires, flowers and 25 types of frogs.

By play: a seated school and play area is available for parents and teachers, where walls are lined with maps and illustrations and museum style cabinets house live animals for children to find and touch. This is a supervised zone.

For adults there are many more things to see and do in Karawatha (peripatetic andragogy) but this story is limited to designing for children’s nature-based education. Outdoor programs are covered comprehensively elsewhere on the Karawatha website.

 

Logos of Karawatha Forest Protection Society

 

Vincent Watego, graphic artist, nature-lover and photographer, created this painting of the Green-thighed Frog, Litoria brevipalmata.

IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) red listed species.

Marilyn Murphy’s line-drawing was the winning entry in an art competition held in ~1990. KFPS have proudly used this logo since incorporation.  The logo depicts the gumnuts & leaves of Eucalyptus planchoniana, a.k.a. Planchon’s Stringybark, Needlebark Stringybark or Bastard Tallowwood: Koala feed trees for food and perhaps shelter (sleep trees).

 

This story honours the three women – Bernice Volz, Trish McHugh, and Polly Cutcliffe – who cared enough to establish the Karawatha Forest Protection Society, 31 years ago, to include stewardship of Karawatha Forest, Illaweena Wetlands and the Kuraby Nature Refuge and bushlands (Roberts, 2021).

 

References

Brisbane City Council. Karawatha Forest Discovery Centre. Video https://youtu.be/FG207_pP2QA

Louv, R. 2005. The Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder. Algonquin Books.

Maynard, S., James, D. & Davidson, A. 2010. ‘The Development of an Ecosystem Services Framework for South East Queensland‘. Environmental Management 45, 881-895.

NRM. 2006. Natural Resource Management of South East Queensland – Mapping Ecosystems Services.

Roberts, Beryl. 2021. Unpublished works on the History of Karawatha,

Tooth, R. & Renshaw, P. 2017. ‘Pedagogy as advocacy in and for place’. Chapter 10 in Diverse Pedagogies of Place. Routledge.

Volbert, T. The 7 Senses Foundation and colleagues.

Review Status: Pending