Telegraph Voices: How should our city’s parks be preserved for future generations?

Jeni Harvey's son Owen Menmuir, aged four
Jeni Harvey's son Owen Menmuir, aged four

‘Parks are the lifeblood of neighbourhoods and so crucial to mental and physical health’

Jeni Harvey, mum-of-two

Jeni Harvey's children Owen and Caitlin Menmuir, aged four and one, in the park

Jeni Harvey's children Owen and Caitlin Menmuir, aged four and one, in the park

When you’re a parent of small children, you invariably find yourself spending a lot of time in parks.

Not only do they provide safe places for energy-filled children to run, climb and jump with others of their age, but they’re completely free – unlike, say, soft play centres, where you can easily part with £20 on entry and a couple of cups of coffee.

I’ve lost track of the number of mornings I’ve spent in Hillsborough Park, on child-watching duty on a Saturday morning while my husband runs the Parkrun, or in Rivelin Valley, trying to stop the four-year-old from getting washed downstream as he clambers into the river to sit on the iron chair (if you don’t know what I’m talking about, you should try it).

And Sheffield isn’t called the Outdoor City for nothing.

Yes, there’s the big parks, such as Endcliffe and Graves, which are obviously fantastic.

But in the many years I’ve lived in different neighbourhoods across the city, I’ve always been close to a green space on my doorstep.

In Meersbrook, I’ve huffed and puffed up the hill with a buggy to have “adventures” in the trail of wooden animal sculptures.

In Walkley we’ve danced on the musical playground at Ruskin Park, and in Crookes we’ve taken evening walks over the Bolehills, looking out to the Peak District beyond.

I know that as austerity bites, there’s going to be fewer resources to plough into parks.

But what the city council has already done to improve playgrounds, in places such as Norfolk Park which need it the most, is great to see.

Parks are the lifeblood of neighbourhoods and so crucial to mental and physical health.

I hope that, with ongoing support from communities and the local authority, they can continue to receive the care and attention they need, to remain great places for generations to come to enjoy.

‘Friends groups are the means by which our parks will prevail in the face of dwindling government funds’ Jenni Sayer and Laura Appleby, Sheffield Park Project

As Sheffield Park Project, our mission for 2017 is to visit every park in Sheffield (all 100-plus!) so we have seen the best and worst of Sheffield’s parks.

We have found that our parks are wonderful, diverse gems which offer spectacular views of not just the city, but the strong sense of community throughout.

In every corner of Sheffield, we have seen examples of communities coming together to improve green spaces, from the lovely community garden and orchard in Ecclefield Park to the stunning rockeries of Whinfell Quarry Gardens.

However, we have noticed that where community-run friends groups are absent there is an obvious decline in the upkeep of parks, particularly in smaller parks.

The ‘Big Boys’ of Sheffield parks, such as Graves and Endcliffe, and parks in more affluent areas are generally cleaner, better maintained and more used.

It is evident that friends groups are the means by which our parks will prevail in the face of dwindling government funds.

Through our social media presence, we’ve also noticed how interested young people are in Sheffield’s parks.

We think that friends groups could capitalise on this interest and attract more young people as members, therefore securing our beautiful parks’ future in the long term.

‘Some facilities are decent - some aren’t’ Cameron Connor, aged 13 - Age Group Representative for under 13-14s in the Sheffield & District Junior Sunday Football League

I’ve played football for Hillsborough Pumas for over six years now. When I first started playing it was on a Saturday morning in Hillsborough Park.

There are so many great clubs and teams based in the parks of Sheffield. Some of the facilities are decent, but some aren’t so great.

I know councils haven’t got much money these days, but for me it’s really important to keep our parks in good condition so we can play football.

The league in Sheffield has over 12,000 players. Not all are based in parks but a lot are.

A lot of people get a lot of enjoyment in their parks.

This is good for fitness and keeping active.

When I go to the local park I see lots of people doing park runs, playing football, tennis, all sorts of sports.

It’s important to us, and it’s important to lots of people in Sheffield.

I know there are lots of things that councils need to spend money on, but for me, parks are really important, and need to have the grass cut and bins emptied so everyone in Sheffield can keep enjoying them.

If we lose these spaces we currently have, we’ll have fewer and fewer places where football and other sports can be played.

We need to make sure that we keep on using the parks in Sheffield and that we recognise their value to us as a city - Olly Galvin, Production Co-ordinator for Peace in the Park Festival

I think we’re really lucky to have such amazing green spaces in our city, and a council that is supportive of events taking place in them.

When we put Peace in the Park Festival on we stay on the Ponderosa for five days, sleeping on site and building the event with a fantastic group of volunteers.

Because we spend so much time on there we get to see a really good range of people using the park for lots of different reasons, from local residents walking their dogs in the morning to families picnicking and teenagers playing football.

There isn’t much I would change in our parks. We put on a lot of events across the city in different parks with our event management company Mesters Events.

Each park has its own character and its own set of issues that we have to take into account to make our events work.

The council does a good job of maintaining our green spaces, removing waste, fixing problems and organising a series of events across the year. Our parks get a lot of use, especially in the summer, and the events that take place in them help to generate revenue for the council to continue this maintenance.

It’s always going to be a balancing act between putting enough events on to raise funds for a cash-strapped council, and making sure that the park conditions don’t deteriorate due to overuse.

We need to make sure that we keep on using the parks in Sheffield and that we recognise their value to us as a city, to ensure that they are protected for future generations to enjoy.

Editor’s View: Time to rethink park funding