John Ruskin once said: “The measure of any great civilisation is its cities, and a measure of a city’s greatness is to be found in the quality of its public spaces, its parks and its squares.”
Indeed, public parks have a very special place in the nation’s heart. They are the green lungs of our towns and cities: locally loved spaces that provide millions of people with opportunities to escape, explore, rest, relax and play.
Aside from the pleasure that parks give us, they also deliver a huge range of benefits: they keep us healthy, in body and mind; slow the flow of water in otherwise hard urban landscapes; help to clean air and regulate temperature; provide crucial homes for wildlife; and are a vital part of our nations' culture and history.
Just as the true value of parks to our society and economy is beginning to be understood, the main way we have looked after public parks for over a hundred years – via local authorities - is under grave threat from a dramatic shift in local authority funding (HLF State of UK Public Parks, 2016).
This crisis requires us to think afresh and act with ambition to secure and grow the benefits parks bring to communities. By working together on new and innovative ways to fund and manage our parks, we are optimistic we can solve this crisis and develop solutions fit for generations to come.
Dame Helen Ghosh
Director-General, National Trust