“Art on the Wall”

Recently, I had the pleasure of listening to a very powerful speaker regarding the highly successful approach to philanthropy in the environment sector in Australia.  This organisation is involved in management and co-management of upto 10 million hectares across Australia.  In fact it is probably the largest non-government land and conservation manager.

The keynote speaker  was inspiring and provided significant insights into there success and concepts that should be adopted else where.

However what fascinated me was his reference to a concept called “Art on the Wall”.  The basic concept is centred around an observation made about 10 years ago regarding the success of the Art world in attracting philanthropic funds.

In Victoria (Australia) in 1904, an bequest was established following the death of Alfred Felton – called the Felton Bequest.  This has been the most significant bequest and has been used to purchase over 15,000 works of art.  In 1904, the Government was able to provide the venue but couldn’t provide the Art (on the Wall) and it was an individual that made the difference.

In terms of our natural environment, the venue is the land but the Art are the elements that make Australia’s environment unique – they can range from the threatened species such as the Tasmanian devil, the spotted-tail quoll, the Tasmanian wedge-tailed eagle and the grey goshawk on the Oura Oura property in Tasmania to the world’s first Night Parrot sanctuary at Pullen Pullen Reserve in Queensland.

The question apart from who made this observation regarding “Art on the Wall”, has any government who provides the venue (parks) enabled others to provide the “Art”?  Can Government’s replicate the same success with the environment as they did over a hundred years ago with Art?




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


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


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”.


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


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/


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”

The modern “Tragedy of the Commons”

The majority of reports internationally regarding wellbeing, liveability or economic wellbeing always tend to result in identifying obesity and mental health issues as significant challenges or issues.  Issues that have significant economic costs as well as the obvious personal cost.

Just examine any of the international indicators to grasp the extent.
So recently I made an observation via Twitter in response to the four big issues for Australia.  My tweet was:

2 of the big 4 be solved with “up-stream” concepts “Healthy Commons Healthy Cities Healthy Communities” @WUParks

This was in response to the Fairfax-Lateral Economics Index of Australia’s Wellbeing:


My tweet is part reflection on 16 years since the development of the Healthy Parks Healthy People concept that emerged out of the observation regarding the chronic societal health issues that were emerging (see Oxford Health Alliance).  A concept that was ahead of its time and has become central to park management worldwide (See USA National Parks Service).

So why are these chronic health issues even more chronic?  Have we failed to read the tea leaves?  Are we designing cities and even just where we live to address these issues?

Thus the comment regarding the “commons”.  The “Tragedy of the Commons” is a well known concept:

The tragedy of the commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users by depleting that resource through their collective action.

Tragedy of the Commons

Given that openspace is the traditional and original “Common”, and is there for the benefit of everyone, have we “depleted” it as a resource that solves these chronic health issues?

It seems that it maybe the reverse that we haven’t tapped this resource well or even at times not at all.  There would be many who would argue that we may have depleted the commons in terms of Eco-system services or environmental value and I am not going to debate or dispute this and there are many other fine individuals discussing and prosecuting this.

So is it time to create “The health tragedy of the Commons” where in the future we are debating over a depleted resource that has generated exceptional health and community outcomes? Or do we create the (economic) concept of “The Benefit of the Commons”?
Clearly as cities grow, as we move to over 70% of the human population residing in cities by 2030 and we create these massive peri-urban sprawl – society need to make “space” work better to solve these chronic health issues but also create what should be sustainable, liveable communities.

The simple concept (strap line) ” Healthy Parks Healthy Parks” was a dramatic and strategic response in 1999 to the health challenges as well as the broader ethical value of parks (See Healthy Parks Healthy People).  This simple concept is underpinned by extensive science and knowledge and has in some areas of the world seen some interesting innovation in park management and use.  However clearly the “in park” response at a urban scale hasn’t kept pace even with the chronic health issues.  This is a global dilemma.

So it is time not only to Rethink parks, openspace and green infrastructure, it is time to start with a simple but matter of fact strap line – that is self evident and true (and may yet not have the underlying evidence):

Healthy Commons Healthy Cities Healthy Communities

Future funding of Parks – UK

I have just recently updated this post to include a Reflections section that includes recent media regarding this topic.

As part of a Hort Week and Parks Alliance (UK) Leaders Roundtable in London (22nd January 2016) on the “Future funding of Parks – what can the UK learn from others?”, I as the Deputy Chair of the World Urban Parks delivered the keynote and a range of observations.

The Organisations:

Horticulture Week has a long relationship with the Parks Alliance. The Alliance was established in 2013 by 40 key leaders from across the UK and grew from the “Making Parks a Priority” campaign run by Horticulture Week.

The Parks Alliance is the voice of UK parks, representing the people and organisations that create, maintain, invest in and use the public green spaces that we are proud to have at the heart of British life. We campaign at local, regional, UK and EU levels to ensure that parks are properly funded, their roles recognized and developed, and that the benefits that they provide are clearly understood and recognized.

The Roundtable Series:

This will be the first in a series of roundtables by the Park Alliance to develop policy positions. This roundtable will help us tease out what options we have for new funding models that will ensure that parks continue to flourish. We would like to be in the position where we could outline what a future park funding model could look like.

The Roundtable Participants:

Kate Lowe, Horticulture week

Drew Bennellick, Head of Landscape & Natural Heritage at the Heritage Lottery Fund

Sir Terry Farrell CBE, architect

Nadia Broccardo, CEO of Team London Bridge

Dave Morris, Chair of The National Federation of Parks and Green Spaces

Ben Rogers, Director of the Centre for London

Lydia Ragoonanan, Programme Manager for the Rethinking Parks at NESTA

Peter Massini, Principal Policy Officer GLA Environment Team

Kate Swade, Development Manager at Shared Assets

Maria Adebowale, Director of Living Space Project

Susannah Wilks, Director of the Cross River Partnership

Ed Wallis, Editorial Director and Senior Research Fellow at the Fabian society

Mark Camley, Chair of the Parks Alliance and Executive Director for Park Operations and Venues, LLDC.

Sue Morgan, CEO of Wandle Valley Regional Park Trust

Alistair Bayford, Regional Operations Director at The Landscape Group

Paul Lincoln, Deputy Chief Executive, Landscape Institute

Wayne Grills, Chief Operations Officer of the British Association of Landscape Industries (BALI)

My Keynote:

A brief outline of my thoughts and observation are outlined here:


Many thanks for allowing me the opportunity to make a few opening remarks regarding this seemingly ongoing discussion regarding this topic, a discussion going on for decades – and that maybe my first observation – we may need to approach this challenge differently.

It is great to see such a diversity of participants from a few different sectors and with different views – and this maybe my second observation – the future of parks might need even more diverse individuals involved.

It is also great to see the UK trying and generating different approaches – be it low level bridges to create more effective use of space, to using dis-used tube lines as Cycle-lines to think tanks such as NESTA – and this maybe my third observation – the solutions maybe in front of you already…

Yes, I am likely to make a range of observations that might seemingly be critical of the park sector.  I might be harsh and demand that we do it differently, I don’t just stand on the sidelines but actively participate, so I am criticising myself and willing to accept the criticisms.  This is my fourth observation – a need to challenge all that we do – In the UK think rubbish and rubbish bins or how parks seem to be “gated”

So Is there a silver bullet?

For the last 10 to 15 years we have endlessly pursued the funding conundrum without a sense of closure or clarity.

You don’t have to go far to find the evidence of the alternative funding models or even maybe the right solution?

There are so many examples, such as:

Locally (UK) from the original work of CABESpace and GreenSpace to the recent NESTA Rethink Parks.

I can cite a range of alternative (and successful) models from:

  • Golden Gate
  • Central Park
  • The Lee Valley model
  • Lottery Approaches – Netherlands Postcode to your own Heritage Lottery
  • Cornwall Park Trust, to
  • Parks Victoria.

Around the world we have tried all models from central government through to philanthropic to private. It is interesting to note that the possible funding choices are linked very strongly to the Governance model chosen and the circumstances or context in their society, that sets “boundaries’ or limits?….but even more interestingly the Leadership that is associated with the so called successful models.

And I can speak at length on all of them.  It is interesting to note that some of these models may have faltered or are faltering and it is mainly due to leadership (and understanding)

The Conversation

So why around the world do we constantly have this conversation?  From the IUCN to WUP.

In a very Economic rationalist view or moment clearly, no one really wishes to buy the “park” product be it the government, the community or individuals.   When your product is still left on the shelf.  What do you do?  Is the product out of date?

But I hear you say we have a “great” product – and that maybe the case.  In fact we (all around the world) have taken the route to prove this – “The Value of Parks” syndrome –  very rational and scientific approaches have been taken to prove the case – even with verification by the Big four Accounting companies.  If we have produced the case for the value of parks, and I don’t doubt for a moment that we have, why are we still debating the ‘funding” dilemma.

  • Have we not prosecuted the case well?
  • Why has no one been willing to “buy” the product.
  • Have we not reached into government?
  • Leveraged our relationships?
  • Sought individuals of influence?

From Michelle Obama to Prince Charles – haven’t you got the “Royal” Parks?

We can debate this endlessly (the value of parks) – and in fact that’s what the sector has been doing for decades.  And I am not about to enter into this debate and am willing to accept it is a job well done in explaining the value of parks and I accept that it is still important.

I know this well, having guided the Australian & NZ Park sector (from Protected Areas to Urban Parks) to develop and prosecute the “Value of Parks” argument, even to the point of crafting a completely different mind set – Healthy Parks Healthy People, and where are they now?

Funding Models what are they really?

The funding “models” we so desperately seek to understand, mimic, co-opt  and implement, are they not just a plain rationale analysis of what they are, if it was life would be simple and we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion,…for example some of these models are as simple as this:

  • the Parks Victoria model in it’s day is just simply a “rating” based funding model,
  • Golden Gate is simply a philanthropic and partnership model
  • Central Park is just simply a philanthropic model
  • Cornwall Park is just simply an endowment model
  • The lottery model is well just selling dreams

and yes when others try to emulate them they are usually far from successful.

What are we missing in this analysis?

So if you re-look at some of these models:

  • The Parks Victoria model was successful from the 1970’s to late 2000’s due to the vision of a Premier of Victoria to create the “Garden State” and hence why Melbourne has one of the best and most extensive parks system.
  • Golden Gate – is because of a unique individual in Brian O’Neill
  • Cornwall Park – Sir John Logan Cornwall – a farsighted individual

Clearly leadership is important – but doing the Journey – in many places we keep jumping ship on leadership, therefore understand the vision/concept – consider HPHP.

So is it just a question of leadership?

And don’t we have that leadership now:

  • what President or Leader of a country has established a legacy park or urban park program?
  • What individual such as a Branson or a Gates have left a ongoing “park” system legacy,
  • What modern legacies are being developed that we should be following.

Different Mindset – A different product

Yes, leadership is important but it is actually what they did and the “trend” that they picked…yes the individual is important and how often do we “push” them aside?

When did you pick the “Golden Gate” trend?  And did you pick it early enough?

What are the emerging concepts and who are the emerging “thinkers’ – the individuals…..  The Skyline, The Urban City National Park…

However it it TIME……..Time to do it differently and in that I will constantly prosecute the case to “Rethink” Parks beyond even NESTA’s program and to back the crazy ones – the ones who think differently.  And I am a big fan of “NESTA” and enabling “thinking”.

When Brian O’Neill started his journey back in the 1960’s, the fundamental concept was to connect with people and to empower people…the USA NPS ignored him as an aberration…they now wish that they had many more…

So what would you do differently and how would this “fund” parks?  So this brings me back to the conundrum – Value = funds.  We spend a lot of time trying to convince everyone that we are valuable and thus they should invest.

Before I wrap up I wish to deviate slightly to highlight the greatest barrier: us, government and community Values….If we are underfunded from a government source and that will never change, can we let go and hand they over to anyone to do anything…chaos theory – the answer is “no” as we can’t trust others but we might have too…

Back to the main points:

The successful models “just” went and created the “value” and the money side of the equation sorted it self.  The Value that they created was different from the traditional “park” value – think skyline, think the first National Park (over hundred years ago – it wasn’t about one but belief), think HPHP, think Cornwall Park.  It is one of my favourite things about Steve Jobs – was that he wished us to buy something that would change our lives and we did, he didn’t try to sell something to just make money…

Brian O’Neill did exactly this “created” value before asking for money..the laneways of Melbourne are another classic…

So has the UK got the opportunity to create “value”:

The Urban National Park City – what can I say – amazing…but do any of you blog it, tweet it, talk about it or do you fear it (a sign that it might be the right thing) – it is about creating value and connection but very differently and they even pose the question that money might not be the central issue.

I am a big fan of what is slowly emerging in Japan as they rethink parks.  I have had the pleasure to work closely with their park leaders over the last few decades as they allow others to find the solution and also to “rethink” their roles.

So some observations:

  • We may need to approach this challenge differently.
  • The future of parks might need even more diverse individuals involved.
  • Understand the models better but more importantly understand who to back locally
  • Love and own your homegrown ideas
  • Rewrite the rules – The laneways of Melbourne
  • Pull the model apart – have no fear
  • The solutions maybe in front of you already…

So some thoughts:

  • Yes, create the first Urban City National Park
  • Create a health park – and again not just some isolated “gym” stuff
  • Stop – stopping people – what are our laneways…
  • “lifestyle” your offer – We shop, drink coffee, we “lifestyle” ourselves…they are just social processes…make parks central to them..
  • Redesign parks – design legacy…


Further Reflections:

Since my keynote there have been number of articles published and responses posted regarding this challenging conundrum:

An Article from: “Shared Assets” –

“Why are we still having this conversation!?”


Articles  from HortiCulturalWeek (UK)


“Parks programmes in UK are followed worldwide”



“Leadership is key, finds Parks Alliance debate”







Nesta – the UK Charity leading the way

Before I outline my ideas on “governance” of parks in future blogs, I wish to congratulate a UK NFP that has been providing exceptional leadership in park thinking and innovation. At present some of the greatest innovations and ideas in park management are coming out of the UK. I have previously explored the exceptional idea of the first National Park City – London.

Nesta, an innovation charity in the UK with a mission to help people and organisations bring great ideas to life.

“they are dedicated to supporting ideas that can help improve all our lives, with activities ranging from early stage investment to in-depth research and practical programmes.”

For further reading: http://www.nesta.org.uk/about-us#sthash.8BGZGyE4.dpuf

One of Nesta’s exceptional programs is the “Rethinking Parks”. A concept that is timely and one that I full support. With the extensive changes occurring in the world and in cities – with over 50% of the world’s population in cities, with climate change and the need to make places liveable, it is time to rethink parks and rethink them beyond the existing paradigm.

For further reading: http://www.nesta.org.uk/project/rethinking-parks

Nesta’s rethinking of parks commenced with a workshop in 2012, the Rethinking Parks workshop. This was done In partnership with the Heritage Lottery Fund and Big Lottery Fund.

For further reading: http://www.nesta.org.uk/event/rethinking-parks-workshop#sthash.NLO2aopi.dpuf

Since this workshop, Nesta has funded, supported and encouraged a range of “rethinking” ideas and are now testing 11 new business models to explore new ways to use, manage and make the most of the UK’s public parks. The teams ranging from park community groups such as the Thames Chase Trust and Bristol Parks Forum, through to nationally recognised charities, like The National Trust.

For further reading:  http://www.nesta.org.uk/news/rethinking-parks-funded-projects#sthash.GbI9fJFq.dpuf

Nesta also encourages individuals and organisations to think differently with lateral blogs, the one that caught my attention is:

“How would Doctor Who Rethink Parks?”

“Like millions across the world, last weekend I snuggled on the sofa with light refreshments & eager anticipation to see the 50th anniversary episode of Dr Who. After the impressive special effects and captivating interplay between the different incarnations of The Doctor was over, I wondered what The Doctor might prescribe to ensure our parks thrive across time and space? What if public parks offered more on the inside than appears from a distance? What if they were deftly able to adapt to time and place?”

Could we really explore what parks mean across time and space/place…think Design Legacy but more importantly could we imagine what our parks would or should be like in a 100 years…this is critical and it would be great if Nesta could explore this internationally.

For further reading: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/how-would-doctor-who-rethink-parks#sthash.GCmGY5sS.dpuf

Elery Hamilton-Smith (1929 – 2015) – A magnificent man who cared for people and the environment

When I was notified that Elery had over the weekend past away, I was sitting outside a cabin on Rottnest Island (Western Australia) looking over the ocean but more particularly sitting atop a limestone system. Three of Elery’s passions…karst systems, people and parks. A setting very appropriate to reflect on the impact Elery had on myself and parks.

I first really got to know Elery in the early 1990’s, when a colleague of mine, Brett Cheatley engaged Elery as part of a team to undertake a review of urban parks and their visitors but also to explore the concepts of “benchmarks”. That initial interaction lead to a wise counsel relationship that guided much of my thinking around parks and people. When I was floundering to find a topic for my Master’s Thesis, my supervisor Bill Russell (Monash University) suggested I seek Elery out. Meeting in the front room in his house, Elery, in a very typical Elery fashion – that look and stare of intense interest..questioned me about how society was changing, how parks were changing and thus “what was management”. This was the mid 1990’s and thus led to a thesis around “managerialism in parks” and many endless discussions on parks, people and the future.

That experience shaped my thoughts on so many topics ranging from:

  • A whole of system approach to park management that resulted in the establishment of Parks a Victoria
  • The interconnection of people and the environment that resulted in the Healthy Parks Healthy People
  • Learning and innovation that has resulted in me revisiting the “design” of parks through the concept of legacy
  • Management and leadership that resulted in the Parks Forum and the recently established World Urban Parks

But more than that, he encouraged thinking, a lost art. He also encouraged a holistic and humanistic approach. He engaged with all and was very forgiving.

Neil McCarthy

A short Biography

Elery Hamilton-Smith (born 28 December 1929) is a retired Australian interdisciplinary scholar and academic, latterly adjunct professor of Environmental Studies at Charles Stuart University.

Elery grew up in rural South Australia. He did not have conventional academic training, and graduated from the University of Adelaide with a Diploma in Social Sciences in 1956

Elery worked in teaching and community services (1949-68) social policy & Planning Consultant (1969-77). He developed a plan for education of recreation and leisure workers and helped establish courses in 6 universities (1974). He was appointed lecturer and continued as Professor and Head of School in Social Policy and Community Services (1969-95). His career over this period included wide-ranging research and consultation often centred upon leisure policies and programs. He undertook various national policy development studies, visiting professorships, Educational Fellowship with Government of Canada, work with UNESCO, WLRA Centre of Excellence (Wageningen), and Benefits of Leisure studies with the US Forest Service.

In the 1990s Elery moved progressively from his interest in outdoor recreation into examining issues of sustainability and environmental studies; accepted a chair in environmental studies and worked as an advisor with both IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature and the UNESCO World Heritage Bureau.

Elery had wide interests and he had worked on:

  • social policy development and programmes dealing with youth issues.
  • development of leisure and outdoor recreation activities
  • Conservation, particularly tourism and visitor appreciation of wilderness and National Parks
  • Cave and karst management
  • sustainability and environmental studies.

Elery had published over 2,000 books, reports and papers and worked in 50 countries.

Elery’s contribution to Australian society was recognised in 2001 when he was awarded Membership of the Order of Australia (AM) in Australia Day Honours. Elery was also recognised by his park peers when the Parks Forum in 2010:

“formally recognised the life-time commitment of Elery Hamilton-Smith AM for his work for parks around the world, starting with his advocacy work in the 1960s. Elery has held many professorial appointments and undertaken various roles with UNESCO and the United Nations development program. He also has many years of working in various IUCN programs, as a volunteer.”

Reflections for the Park

From Brett Cheatley (Cheatley Consulting)

“Elery was one of those people who knew the world of urban parks better than anyone in those days and kept up this interest until his final days. He was a great research mentor especially in the area of park visitor research and visitor services. He was one of the early adopters of the need to evaluate the benefits provided by an effective urban park system. His advocacy preceded Healthy Parks Healthy People and in many ways his support and intellect took many on the journey toward the same outcome of measurement; ie. that urban parks and open space equate to a healthier and happier society. Elery was comforted in the fact that his research had shown that urban parks had been an important element of city design throughout history and yet he had become a tad disillusioned by the lack of understanding of their role and effective management. He was a strong believer that eventually communities across the world would understand both the intrinsic and extrinsic value of urban parks and that this alone would drive their protection and sustainability. Always the academic researcher and publisher; he though that research into their visitation and use, and its subsequent publication, was the key.”

From David Clarke (Former CEO Parks Forum)

“In my early time at Parks Forum, as a person with more naiveté than knowledge about parks, I found Trustee Elery incredibly generous and patient with his time. From my perspective, he contained in his life experience an exceptional body of knowledge, and the sharp mind to make use of it. Along with Peter Bridgewater, Elery taught me a lot about the international context for the work of Parks Forum, and despite many other ongoing interests, he remained committed and passionate in his views about parks and their administration. He stayed connected. He provided regular feedback on the work we were doing. On a number of occasions during my role, Elery hosted me at his home with a cup of tea and strong advice on our international relations, in an office of old-school academic style and achievement – smelling of books and leather and crammed with the paperwork that reflected his continuing interests. His great mind, his achievements and life commitment to parks demand the highest respect, and that is how I will remember him. With the greatest respect.”

The Foundational Design Legacy Principles – Summary

This section contains the complete list of Principles that have been developed regarding “Design Legacy” and the future management of parks. They will be added to overtime and modified as the industry discusses them further.

The Brown-Olmsted Design Legacy Principles:

  • Principle 1: Natural Form – is the full utilization of the naturally occurring features of a given space;
  • Principle 2: Blend – is “subordination” – the subordination of individual details to the whole;
  • Principle 3: Concealment – is concealment of design, design that does not call attention to itself;
  • Principle 4: Sense: is design to enhance the sense of space;
  • Principle 5: Utility – is utility above all else
  • Principle 6: System – is where space is designed as part of a network

The Monash Design Legacy Principles:

  • Principle 7: History – is the understanding of culture, history and significance of place;
  • Principle 8: Soul – is the creation of a “soul” in design that gives the place a sense of purpose and relevance;
  • Principle 9: Adaptation – is the creation of the ability of the space to adapt and change with time;

The O’Neill_ Design Legacy Principles:

  • Principle 10: Belief – is the understanding that communities and individuals can achieve achieve outstanding success;
  • Principle 11: Community Fabric – is that the fabric of the park and open space should reflect the in sense of what the community is! ;
  • Principle 12: Connections – is about making connections between all sectors of society and individuals and making “parks’ relevant to them;
  • Principle 13: Systems Rethink – is about exploring “parks’ as a broader component of a whole system and how it becomes the fabric of a city;
  • Principle 14: Leadership without Fear – is about considering ideas and innovations that not only challenge existing concepts but also change the concept.

for further reference:


Modern Design Legacy Foundational Principles

From the discussion on Modern Design Legacy for urban parks, see postings “Part 1” and “Part 2” a number of core principles can be established that will shape future urban form.

The Foundational Design Legacy Principles

Building upon the above example there are a further 5 Principles that can be considered:

Principle : Belief – is the understanding that communities and individuals can achieve outstanding success;

Principle : Community Fabric – is that the fabric of the park and open space should reflect the in sense of what the community is! ;

Principle : Connections – is about making connections between all sectors of society and individuals and making “parks’ relevant to them;

Principle : Systems Rethink – is about exploring “parks’ as a broader component of a whole system and how it becomes the fabric of a city;

Principle : Leadership without Fear – is about considering ideas and innovations that not only challenge existing concepts but also change the concept.

Modern Design Legacy Part 2

This is the second posting of Modern Design legacy thinking around Urban Parks.

System thinking Revolution – the Greater London Urban National Park Concept

Thinking differently can lead to interesting and surprising outcomes. The concept of System Thinking is well known but hardly conceptualised or leveraged. However an example that is making us all rethink the concept of “parks” is:

The Concept: A Greater London National Park

The city of London covers more than 1,500 square kilometres, an area about the size of Surrey or South Yorkshire. More than 13,000 species, including humans, inhabit 3,000 parks, 30,000 allotments, three million gardens and two National Nature Reserves. Overall, 47 per cent of London is green space, and 60 per cent is classified as open space.

“We have eight million trees in London; the world’s largest urban forest,” _

Yes there are national parks that form parts of great cities and the Finnish have furthered this concept of National Urban Parks. But nowhere in the world has anyone reimagined the whole landscape on such a scale to achieve (from the Greater London National Park website_):

  • Children – Growing up in a National Park City would have a profound influence on our children. It would open up new opportunities for young people to be healthy, spend quality time with family, improve their outdoor education and grow up as creative citizens.
  • Health – Actively enjoying quality green space improves our mental health, physical health and well being. It not only saves money on the health services, but can also improve productivity in the workplace.
  • Wealth – The Greater London National Park will put London on the map as the birthplace of a new National Park City movement. It will not only inspire new kinds of business in the capital, but actively work to promote opportunities for recreation and tourism in London’s outer boroughs.
  • Recreation – London is an incredible, inspirational and accessible landscape to explore. The Greater London National Park would promote the city’s long distance footpaths, 50 canoe clubs and numerous other often forgotten opportunities to enjoy open-air
  • Environment – The National Park will create a common vision for the city that all Londoners will understand. Activities will lead to better management of the capital’s green and blue infrastructure and as a result, increased resilience against pollution, flooding, climate change and other risks.
  • Nature – Londoners share a long history appreciating and protecting wildlife. The Park would both celebrate our achievements in conserving green space and inspire a generation to think creatively about our future relationship with nature.

The concept is not only designed to engage communities and society with their environment and reimagine a liveable city but also to test the boundaries of the “National Park” concept. It is timely that we re-examine what is possible and what can be. This maybe the “Design Legacy” of the next century.