A few years ago, I joined the Friends of St Katharine’s Park in Gracemount for a community clean-up. I had been involved in creating the park nearly 20 years before.
Back then the challenges then were formidable with burnt-out cars about the only feature in what was a bleak and empty space. Trees planted were ripped out by vandals within weeks.
The St Katharine’s Friends Group and the council staff do an amazing job. Mike Shields and Peter Davidson from the parks service were along helping the clean-up.
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I was hugely impressed by just how magnificent the park was looking with the array of bulbs, new trees, benches and wooden sculptures. I was telling Peter Davidson how impressed I was when a passing local resident saw us admiring the view, and she said: “Isn’t it beautiful? We’re so proud of it.”
It certainly was beautiful. If you picked up St Katharine’s Park and dropped it in Morningside it wouldn’t look out of place.
The improvement in Edinburgh’s parks has been led by David Jamieson for many years, and he’s recently left that post. As parks and greenspace manager, he’s been behind a quiet revolution that’s given Edinburgh the best parks service in Scotland.
A Green Flag for a park is the benchmark of excellence, and Edinburgh has more than half of all the Green Flag parks in Scotland.
David would be the first to acknowledge that it’s not all down to him, and that’s true. Parties of all colours have enthusiastically supported the parks service in Edinburgh.
I well remember complementing Lib Dem Councillor Robert Aldridge, who oversaw the parks service for many years for the excellent work done on his watch. That cross-party support has continued to this day.
But whilst David wasn’t responsible for everything, he more than played his part. He introduced park quality assessments to help guide investment and led a service that used parks to help regenerate local communities across the city.
He’s not retiring, he’s an advisor on nature and biodiversity for the European Commission. He leaves a service in great shape and one that is the envy of Scotland. Thanks for a job well done.
Donald Anderson is Playfair Scotland’s director and former Edinburgh Council leader