You just had to stroll to your nearest park over the bank holiday weekend to see how well-loved Edinburgh’s green spaces are. Since taking this post I have been spending my Saturday mornings visiting some of these wonderful places. This week I dropped by the Meadows and was so pleased to see how well used it was – there’s nothing like some warm weather to get us all out into our parks.
They’re far more than just sunny havens though. They’re a place for our children to play and interact, for exercise and relaxation and for nature to flourish.
Just this week, Fields in Trust reported that the UK’s parks and green spaces provide a whopping £34bn in wellbeing benefits, saving the NHS an estimated £111m a year by making the people that visit them healthier and happier.
There’s no doubt a jog around your local pond or playing field – or simply a relaxing seat on a park bench – can invigorate the senses.
That’s why we’re fiercely protective of our green spaces. With 137 beautiful and varied parks spanning Edinburgh, we’re amongst the greenest cities in the UK, as well as having the most Green Flag parks in Scotland – 32 (30 managed by the council), with two more (Fairmilehead and Lauriston Castle Gardens) being judged this month.
Our own research on the value of the Capital’s parks showed that every £1 spent in this area delivers £12 of social, economic and environmental benefits, so we know how important it is to invest in our green network.
And there’s plenty of work going on to maintain our parks, from the world-famous floral clock in West Princes Street Gardens, which is just about to undergo a month of flower-planting in celebration of a (soon to be announced) significant anniversary, to projects in the outlying areas of the city, like the creation of a new park at Little France and the multi-million pound restoration of Saughton Park.
We are committed to promoting biodiversity across sites too. Under Edinburgh Living landscapes, we aim to place nature at the heart of Edinburgh’s future. Projects include tree-planting (of which there are already more than 600,000 city-wide) and our ongoing programme of wildflower meadow-planting, reduced grass-cutting and perennial planting which improve the environment and attract a multitude of birds and insects.
Many of our parks are home to some of the calendar’s major events, be it Edinburgh’s Christmas in Princes Street Gardens or Foodies Festival in Inverleith Park. And while these attract and entertain thousands of people, we appreciate that there’s a balance to be struck between their staging, the needs of park users and the upkeep of our parks. That’s why we charge organisers for a reinstatement bond and work hard to ensure sites are returned to a high standard.
It’s worth noting that a great deal of development in our parks would not be possible without the dedication of the fantastic Friends Groups.
These volunteers work hard to raise funds, involve communities and make improvements for the benefit of visitors. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support and commitment.
We do rely on the public in general to help us keep our green spaces beautiful. Of course we all love a picnic in the park or to let the dog off the leash to enjoy the fresh air. But the only way we can keep our award-winning parks as welcoming as they are is if people bin their litter, pick up after their dogs and use BBQs in designated areas.
That said, I know most people do, and many go one step further to make parks even better. And as summer approaches and even more of us head out to bask in the sun or admire the flowers, it’s more important than ever that we love our parks – and remember just how blooming marvellous they are!
Councillor Karen Doran is transport and environment vice-convener at Edinburgh City Council