As the fifth week of our 'Summer of Parks' concludes, in our latest staff blog our Digital & Campaigns Officer takes a look at the impact of litter and how we can all make our parks and green spaces nicer places for everyone this summer.
Close your eyes for a moment. Picture your favourite park or green space. Maybe you were there at the weekend: enjoying a stroll, having a kick-about with the kids, or watching the birds in the trees.
Now think about what the park looks like on a sunny summer's afternoon. The temperatures are rising, the sun is shining down, and the grass is full of your neighbours enjoying the natural environment around them. Research shows that a trip to the local park will make you happier and healthier, after all!
Next, consider what the park looks like a few hours later. You and your neighbours have retired back home to put your feet up in front of the tele for the evening or headed out (or even 'out out'!) to continue enjoying your day. Does the park look exactly as it did before everyone arrived that morning? We'd all like to think it does, but all too often it doesn't. It looks much more like the picture at the top of this page.
This was the scene at parks and green spaces across the country last summer, when the heatwave drew us all outside, bringing picnics and barbeques with us, but often not taking them home again afterwards.
This week our Summer of Parks is looking at the management and maintenance of parks. In order for us all to keep enjoying our local green spaces, all of this litter that is left behind has to be tidied up. Often that job is done by parks professionals - the park managers and park rangers who put their hearts into making their parks beautiful day in and day out. Every minute and pound they have to spend clearing away litter is a minute and pound they could be spending cutting the grass, repairing that fence or planting their latest floral display - essential activities which in times of budget cuts are under-pressure even without added tasks.
Alternatively, the job is done by hard-working Friends groups. These aren't paid employees of your local authority. They are your neighbours who are passionate about their, and your, enjoyment of the park or green space. Last summer we saw countless Friends groups up and down the country posting on social media about the hard work they were doing with litter picks, giving their evenings and weekends to clear away what others had left behind. In Leeds, where I'm from, our flagship park is Roundhay Park. The Friends of Roundhay Park do fantastic work caring for and improving the park, but they also pick up the burden of tidying litter away on a regular basis, often sharing on Twitter what they find and remove. There are groups like them across the country.
This is a tribute to our local community who have done a great service tidying the park which has suffered a real battering. Many have been out litter picking over the w/end in response to what they saw happening in the park. Lots said they have never seen it worse. pic.twitter.com/Ii21NZtwKz— Friends of Roundhay Park (@ForpLeeds) April 23, 2019
It is in all our power to take on this tiny maintenance burden. Each March and April, our fellow charity, Keep Britain Tidy, organise the Great British Spring Clean and they have resources you can download year round. Every week our Summer of Parks is encouraging you to do 'One Small Thing' to champion parks and green spaces. This week it is simple - head out to your local park and pick up five pieces of litter. Easy, right? Why restrict yourself just to doing it this week though? Make it a part of your weekly routine to pick up five pieces of litter whenever you visit the park.
This week the temperatures are starting to rise once again. Over the coming weeks, as you're heading out for your summer afternoon at the park, consider what you are taking before you leave home. Can you cut down on the amount of plastic and waste you are taking with you? Try putting your picnics into reusable containers, take a reusable water bottle with you rather than buying a bottle at the café (which will probably cost you more anyways!), and take paper rather than plastic plates and cups. Can you make your day at the park plastic free? Whatever you do take, make sure you bring it home with you.
We are only one week away from Have a Field Day. Next Saturday over 200 events will take place all across the UK with thousands of people enjoying picnics at their local parks and green spaces. After you have finished your picnic, please pick up your litter and take it home with you.
This week our Summer of Parks has been looking at the management and maintenance of parks and green spaces. So next time you're at the park, take a moment to think about those people, both volunteer and professional, who contribute so much to ensure you can enjoy the green oasis you find yourself in, and think about one small thing you can do to make their job that little bit easier.
This summer, please, enjoy your park. But, as the saying goes: take only memories, and leave only footprints.