Volunteer army set to patrol city parks to stamp out antisocial behaviour

Rangers Gerry Scott (right) and Iain Swan chat with a dog walker in Pilrig Park. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Rangers Gerry Scott (right) and Iain Swan chat with a dog walker in Pilrig Park. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A “SNOOPER squad” of volunteers is to be recruited to patrol Capital parks in a bid to stamp out unruly behaviour under new plans being considered by city chiefs.

The army of uniformed volunteers would broadly have the same powers as park rangers – who cannot themselves issue fines – and instead act as the eyes and ears of the parks department.

Duties are thought to involve preventing illegal barbecues and reporting antisocial behaviour to the authorities, rather than carrying out any enforcement role themselves. Volunteers, likely to be equipped with high visibility jackets, are also expected to be recruited into educational activities and conservation of the city’s parks.

The move is part of a ten- year plan and follows a wide-ranging consultation with the public in which lack of patrols and enforcement of rules was among the most common complaints from 158 respondents.

It is thought recruiting keen-minded volunteers could be one affordable way for the authority to crack down on unacceptable behaviour.

Parks chiefs are also looking at deploying gardeners in a dual role to ensure rules are followed.

Mark McInnes, a city councillor representing Meadows and Morningside, said a great deal of work was already done by “friends of” groups across the city, but had concerns about employing volunteers for any enforcement role.

He added: “The friends groups do a fantastic job but it would be very difficult for them to enforce rules and I wouldn’t want a volunteer to be put in the position where people were refusing to comply.”

Proposals for the scheme are still being worked out but it may be similar to the Pentland Hills Ranger Service which already uses a volunteer operation.

This scheme often recruits from retired residents and students who are kitted out with uniforms and are involved with woodland restoration and the running of the regional park.

Training for the role may include shadowing a countryside ranger, attending training weekends and completing a Disclosure Scotland check.

Among those already involved with groups such as the Friends of Inverleith Park are Maria and David Chamberlain. Speaking about the volunteer proposal, Mrs Chamberlain said: “I already go for walks with a friend of mine and if we see any dogs misbehaving in the park she challenges them. It’s done in a polite way and in many cases people don’t notice these things.

“The warden system would be a good thing but there would have to be someone in authority they could go to. If we had a phone number we could be the eyes and ears of the local authority.”

Her husband David added: “This could be a very good scheme. There would need to be clear channels of communication and there would probably need to be a parks team out with the volunteers.”

The News told earlier this week how hundreds of council staff would be given special powers to hand out litter fines under plans to clean up the city.

Lesley Hinds, the city’s environment leader, said: “There will be many people in the community who would be willing to help out in their local park and so currently we’re considering introducing a city-wide voluntary park ranger service to complement the existing service.

“We currently have extensive volunteer involvement in our parks through Friends Group and other volunteering opportunities. A very successful volunteer scheme has been running for a number of years in the Pentland Hills.