In my last blog ” What defines a National Park City“, I started to explore the idea of the meaning of National Parks and it was interesting to understand that the modern definition of a National Park is different from the original intent.
Before I explore what constitutes the attributes that defines a National Park (in a modern sense), it is worthwhile exploring the present concepts of established “Urban National Parks”.
The Scandinavian countries have made definable progress in establishing “National Urban Parks” and there has been some (but limited) attempts to define what constitutes a “National Urban Park”.
Sweden: 26,000 ha
The Royal National City Park (Swedish: Kungliga nationalstadsparken) is (apparently – authors note) the world’s first national city park, established in 1995 in the municipalities of Stockholm, Solna and Lidingö in Sweden.
The Pori National Urban Park was established in May 2002
And more recently in Canada with:
Rouge National Urban Park – 7,900ha
Parks Canada is excited to work towards the establishment of Canada’s first national urban park – Rouge National Urban Park – in the Greater Toronto Area.
Once fully established, Rouge National Urban Park will be one of the largest and best protected urban parks of its kind in the world, spanning 79.1 square kilometres (7900ha – authors comment) in the heart of Canada’s largest and most diverse metropolitan area, overlapping the cities of Toronto, Markham and Pickering. Indeed, Rouge National Urban Park will be 22 times larger than Central Park in New York.
It would seem that there have been a history of National Parks being created within the metropolitan boundaries of cities, even before the first Sweden Urban National Park. Examples are
1987 -The Dandenong Ranges National Park (Melbourne Australia) – 3,500ha
The Dandenong Ranges National Park is a national park located in the Greater Melbourne region of Victoria, Australia. The 35,400-hectare (87,000-acre) national park is situated from 31 kilometres (19 mi) at its western most points at Ferntree Gully and Boronia to 45 kilometres (28 mi) at it easternmost point at Silvan, east of the Melbourne city centre.
The park was proclaimed on 13 December 1987 (1987-12-13), amalgamating the Ferntree Gully National Park, Sherbrooke Forest and Doongalla Estate. In 1997 the Olinda State Forest, Mt. Evelyn and Montrose Reserve were formally added to the national park.
1998 – Table Mountain National Park – 22,000ha
Table Mountain National Park, previously known as the Cape Peninsula National Park, is a national park in Cape Town, South Africa, proclaimed on 29 May 1998, for the purpose of protecting the natural environment of the Table Mountain Chain, and in particular the rare fynbos vegetation. The park is managed by South African National Parks. The property is included as part of the UNESCO Cape Floral Region World Heritage Site.
These two examples both meet the IUCN criteria Category II – National Parks and probably can be deemed to be also National Urban Parks as well depending on having a definition that is internationally recognised.
There are also many other concepts and constructs around significant urban parks. I have spoken at length about the urban park legacies created by “Capability” Brown (think Hampton Court Palace – London), Olmsted (think Central Park – NY) and Brian O’Neill (Think Golden Gate – San Francisco). Many of these have shaped the thinking around what defines a large urban park and thus what would be a National Park in a City or a National Urban Park. The World Urban Parks has also been exploring the concept of large urban parks and the role they play in cities.
It was recognised that large urban parks can have unique socio-cultural environmental and economic roles and issues. A World Urban Parks-hosted web conference of large urban parks leaders in November 2015 endorsed a terms of reference, and proposed a Large Urban Parks executive committee and initial activities to facilitate a Large Urban Parks Network.
So apart from who holds the title of the first true national park in a city and I will leave that to others to debate, explore and determine. And all of that will depend on the definition and characteristics you may agree on. It seems that the first attribute of a National Urban Park is that it needs to be in a city but what defines a city and its boundaries?
City Definition from Wikipedia:
A city is a large and permanent human settlement. Although there is no agreement on how a city is distinguished from a town in general English language meanings, many cities have a particular administrative, legal, or historical status based on local law.
Cities generally have complex systems for sanitation, utilities, land usage, housing, and transportation. The concentration of development greatly facilitates interaction between people and businesses, sometimes benefiting both parties in the process, but it also presents challenges to managing urban growth.
City Definition from OCED:
Until recently, there was no harmonised definition of ‘a city’ for European and other countries member of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). This undermined the comparability, and thus also the credibility, of cross-country analysis of cities. To resolve this problem, the OECD and the European Commission developed a new definition of a city and its commuting zone in 2011.
….cities with an urban centre of at least 50000 inhabitants
Source: CITIES IN EUROPE – Lewis Dijkstra and Hugo Poelman 2012
So does that provide any clarity?
The OECD report of 2012 even gets more complex in defining a City based on commuter arrangements: “if 15% of employed persons living in one city work in another city, these cities are treated as a single city.” And then there is the issue of “To better capture the entire urban centre, a ‘greater city’ level can be created. This is a fairly common approach and several greater cities already exist: Greater Manchester, Greater Nottingham etc.” OECD 2012 report – http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/focus/2012_01_city.pdf
So what is a City?
Well the City of London is a City and technically has a population of 8000 people and an area of 290 ha.
But we generally think of Greater London and a population of close to 12 million as the City. So the first attribute probably needs to be around the OECD definition of greater cities. However this doesn’t necessarily defines the physical boundary, unless you just assume the edges of a great city are defined by either a regulated planning boundary (Think – The Melbourne Metropolitan growth boundary) or existing local authority boundaries.
If you use the Melbourne definition, you tend to exclude the key service infrastructure such as the water catchments that enable a City to exist or the significant green belts that make Melbourne such a liveable City. And given that the modern world is focused on Liveability as the world urbanises, we probably need to take an even broader interpretation of what defines a City. Will this first attribute (the definition of a city) of defining a National Urban Park matter? NO?
Probably YES, as world institutions have a need to compartmentalise and define most things, so we can clear define a park as a “National Urban Park”. In my next blog I will explore the attributes of what internationally defines a National Park and related concepts such as World Heritage and Biospheres to set a scene to actually explore a newer concept (than National Urban Parks) the National Park City paradigm.