What defines a National Park City – Part 3

 

venice-urban-space-cm-2016

Venice – A National Urban Marine Park?  Photo – Caitlin McCarthy 2016

In my first two blogs What defines a National Park City – Part 2, 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,
  • the history and what might be National Urban Parks, and
  • What defines a city space – the context of the “Urban National Park”.

In this blog I will explore what constitutes the attributes that defines a National Park (in a modern sense) and are there other relevant approaches and how this might relate to “National Urban Parks”.

The categorisation process is really a post WWII concept that has emerged through bodies such as UNESCO, UN and IUCN.

The IUCN & Categories

It was in 1969 when the IUCN defined a system that categorised what are protected areas (or areas to protect conservation values).

A Protected Area can be defined as:

Generally, protected areas are understood to be those in which human occupation or at least the exploitation of resources is limited. The definition that has been widely accepted across regional and global frameworks has been provided by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in its categorisation guidelines for protected areas. The definition is as follows:

“A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Protected_area

The IUCN have defined 6 Categories of Protected Areas and National Parks Category is defined as:

Category II: National Park

Large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.

With a Primary Objective:

To protect natural biodiversity along with its underlying ecological structure and supporting environmental processes, and to promote education and recreation.

Source:  http://www.iucn.org/theme/protected-areas/about/protected-area-categories/category-ii-national-park

But what are the characteristics that define this classification system:

Other objectives

To manage the area in order to perpetuate, in as natural a state as possible, representative examples of physiographic regions, biotic communities, genetic resources and unimpaired natural processes;

To maintain viable and ecologically functional populations and assemblages of native species at densities sufficient to conserve ecosystem integrity and resilience in the long term;

To contribute in particular to conservation of wide-ranging species, regional ecological processes and migration routes;

To manage visitor use for inspirational, educational, cultural and recreational purposes at a level which will not cause significant biological or ecological degradation to the natural resources;

To take into account the needs of indigenous people and local communities, including subsistence resource use, in so far as these will not adversely affect the primary management objective;

To contribute to local economies through tourism.

Distinguishing features

Category II areas are typically large and conserve a functioning “ecosystem”, although to be able to achieve this, the protected area may need to be complemented by sympathetic management in surrounding areas.

The area should contain representative examples of major natural regions, and biological and environmental features or scenery, where native plant and animal species, habitats and geodiversity sites are of special spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational or tourist significance.

The area should be of sufficient size and ecological quality so as to maintain ecological functions and processes that will allow the native species and communities to persist for the long term with minimal management intervention.

The composition, structure and function of biodiversity should be to a great degree in a “natural” state or have the potential to be restored to such a state, with relatively low risk of successful invasions by non-native species.

Source:  http://www.iucn.org/theme/protected-areas/about/protected-area-categories/category-ii-national-park

Does our concept of a National Park need to evolve?

At this stage it is difficult to quantify the parameters that would make a parcel of land unique to be considered as a National Park.

What is a “large tract” of land?

Who determines “representative examples”? or

What is “recreational or tourism significance”?

Interesting questions, so who judges what will be a National Park?

  • The people behind “Americas greatest idea”?
  • The IUCN?
  • The UN?
  • Sovereign nations?
  • The community?

The IUCN has produced a lengthy guide on how to apply the Protected Area Management Categories (143 pages).

Source:   https://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/iucn_assignment_1.pdf

So returning to “America’s best idea” – the creation of Yosemite National Park – it certainly is a large tract of land that is in a natural state and represents unique biophysical features and is also of international significance as a tourism destination.  However this designation as a National Park occurred well before a classification system was agreed upon, some 105 years earlier.

In fact most countries designate parks as “National Parks” without any international assessment as would occur with say a “World Heritage” designation.  This doesn’t mean that parks don’t meet the agreed framework but there are many examples where this doesn’t occur and maybe the system should evolve.  The National Urban Parks concept does beg this question – who will judge if a City should be a “National Urban Park”.  However when the discussion does start to occur, it usually starts at the “1969 Protected Area” lens rather than a broader holistic concept.  Is the “1969 Protected Area” lens out of date? And has our thinking evolved?

If you start with the “1969 Protected Area” lens, very few parks in cities could be considered as Category II and that is without defining what being in a city means (see: So what is a City?) .  And no Cities would as the whole landscape (public and private) be considered as a “National (Urban) Park”.  And I stand to be corrected.

Other Concepts for defining a National Urban Park

So are there other concepts that maybe more relevant or should be incorporated to define a “National Urban Park”:

UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) seeks to encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity. This is embodied in an international treaty called the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage , adopted by UNESCO in 1972.

Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/about/

The World Heritage system is a heavily defined process against clear criteria

To be included on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria.

Source: http://whc.unesco.org/en/criteria/

 

ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites)

This non-government organisation “works for the conservation and protection of cultural heritage places”

Source:   http://www.icomos.org/en/

ICOMOS has developed a range of Charters and Declarations since 1964 including two that could help define the park topology in terms of city landscape:

 Charter for the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas (The Washington Charter) – 1987

Source:   http://www.international.icomos.org/charters/towns_e.pdf

Historic Gardens (The Florence Charter) – 1981

Source:   http://www.international.icomos.org/charters/gardens_e.pdf

And of course there are a range of UN related program that are driving new ideas and thoughts that may be applicable in defining a “National Park City” such as:

MAB – Biosphere

Launched in 1971, UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme (MAB) is an Intergovernmental Scientific Programme that aims to establish a scientific basis for the improvement of relationships between people and their environments.

Source:   http://www.unesco.org/new/en/natural-sciences/environment/ecological-sciences/man-and-biosphere-programme/

Could a “National Park City” define itself in terms of the three functions of BioSpheres?:

  • Conservation – contribute to the conservation of landscapes, ecosystems, species and genetic variation
  • Development – foster economic and human development which is socio-culturally and ecologically sustainable
  • Logistic support – support for demonstration projects, environmental education and training, research and monitoring related to local, regional, national and global issues of conservation and sustainable development

UN-Habitat

UN-Habitat is the United Nations programme working towards a better urban future. Its mission is to promote socially and environmentally sustainable human settlements development and the achievement of adequate shelter for all.

 Source:   http://unhabitat.org/

Where next

So in this blog I have explored what constitutes the attributes that defines a National Park (in a modern sense) and the other relevant approaches and how this might relate to “National Urban Parks”.  However before we construct a classification system or bolted it onto another system with another purpose, it is worthwhile exploring in my next blog what might well be “UK’s Best Idea” for parks.

What defines a National Park City – Part 2

Arthurs Seat
Arthur’s Seat (Holyrood Park) – Edinburgh Scotland – A true National Urban Park?

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.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_National_City_Park

Finland:

The Pori National Urban Park was established in May 2002

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pori_National_Urban_Park

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.

Source:  http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/pn-np/on/rouge/about/apropos-about.aspx

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.

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dandenong_Ranges_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.

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Table_Mountain_National_Park

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.

Source:  http://www.worldurbanparks.org/en/programs/large-urban-parks-committee

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.[1][2] 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.

Source:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City

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

Source:  http://ec.europa.eu/regional_policy/sources/docgener/focus/2012_01_city.pdf

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.

 Source:   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/City_of_London

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.

What defines a National Park City

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Over the last twenty years, a number of Governments and individuals have been exploring the concept of national parks and cities.  Generally the discussion and the developments have mostly centred on the purity of the “national park” concept and have only seen limited progress of understanding of a National Park concept within a City.

However 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:

The Royal National City Park (Swedish: Kungliga nationalstadsparken) is the world’s first national city park, established in 1995 in the municipalities of Stockholm, Solna and Lidingö in Sweden.

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_National_City_Park

Finland:

The Pori National Urban Park was established in May 2002

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pori_National_Urban_Park

Since the 1970’s there have been a number of attempts to develop a typology or classification system for urban parks (including greenspace and green infrastructure), however they have generally failed to gain acceptance and international recognition.

Over the next six months, I am going to explore – what defines a “National Park City” and in this journey will explore the founding wisdom regarding national parks and posing what might be the criteria for a City to become a “National Park City”.

So where to start?

John Muir once said

Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul.

So what is a National Park, the standard definitions range from Wikipedia:

A national park is a park in use for conservation purposes. Often it is a reserve of natural, semi-natural, or developed land that a sovereign state declares or owns. Although individual nations designate their own national parks differently, there is a common idea: the conservation of ‘wild nature’ for posterity and as a symbol of national pride.[1]

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_park

to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN):

Category II: National Park

Large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.

Source: http://www.iucn.org/theme/protected-areas/about/protected-area-categories/category-ii-national-park

And at this stage most individuals would be thinking of Yosemite National Park in the USA (apparently the first National Park) – yes a large area that is protected in law that would probably met the IUCN definition and would also met the Wikipedia definition especially reflecting “national pride”.

The Concept of a National Park

So where did this concept of a National Park come from and were they set aside based on the definition that now exists?  The history of National Parks as a concept was captured in a very significant documentary:

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone.

Source: http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/about/

But what was the original intent:

In 1864, Congress passes an act that protects Yosemite from commercial development for “public use, resort and recreation” – the first time in world history that any government has put forth this idea – and hands control of the land to California.

Source: http://www.pbs.org/nationalparks/about/episode-guide/

or

By the Act of March 1, 1872, Congress established Yellowstone National Park in the Territories of Montana and Wyoming “as a public park or pleasuring-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people”

In 1864 there was no doubt that the significance of the landscape (the Cathedrals of the Valleys) provided the foundational motive but the legislative Act was about “public use, resort and recreation”.  This was far from the definition that we now associate with a National Park.  An interesting aside (but significant in a definitional sense) is that the park was placed in control of the California State.

So the definition of a National Park and even how we perceive a national park maybe a relatively recent construct.  This is truly reflected in exploring the history of the creation of parks that we call “National Parks”:

From the UK – access to the Countryside:

First freedom to roam bill fails

James Bryce MP starts a campaign for public access to the countryside by introducing the first freedom to roam bill to parliament in 1884. The bill fails but the campaign, which was to last for more than 100 years, had begun.

Early 20th century – Public demands access to the countryside

There is a growing appreciation of the great outdoors, the benefits of physical exercise, and the feeling of freedom and of spiritual renewal gained from open-air recreation. It is a response to widespread industrialisation, the expansion of towns and cities and the ongoing enclosure of land by landowners for farming or sporting reasons. Conflicts emerge between landowners and public interest groups as the latter demand greater access to the countryside.

1930s – Mass trespass on Kinder Scout increases pressure for national parks designations

A 1931 government inquiry recommends the creation of a ‘national park authority’ to select areas for designation as national parks. However, no action is taken and public discontent grows, leading to the 1932 mass trespasses on Kinder Scout in the Peak District. Five men are imprisoned.

Source:  http://www.nationalparks.gov.uk/students/whatisanationalpark/history

So why are the definitions now, really only a recent construct?

This poses many questions:

  • What do the definitions mean in a City sense?
  • What are the attributes that define a national park?

Much of this will be explored in future blogs about “What Defines a National Park City”