How can local parks improve the health of a neighbourhood?
Services: Research, Stakeholder Engagement, Communication.
Our Future Cities' research supported the idea that community parks can be much more than play spaces exclusively for young children. Interviews and observations revealed that the park already welcomed a wide range of users, despite the absence of facilities specifically aimed at these groups.
An Open Day was duly held, at which a very substantial turnout of local residents showed up with queries, suggestions and points of view. While the community was not in perfect agreement over the ideal form of their park, the essential raw material – investment and involvement – was evident in abundance. The community attending the open day had the opportunity to react to an initial design prepared by Clare Burgess that acknowledged some abiding technical constraints of the park, and provided a framework for discussion.
Comments were collected, and a lively conversation arose in a new Facebook group dedicated to the park, which would evolve into a Friends of Thornhill Park group. As the discussion gathered pace, Clare Burgess started work on a new design that incorporated as many neighbourhood comments as possible while also leaving space for future improvements managed by the Friends of the Park.
Our Future Cities conducted an assessment of the Park’s performance across a range of parameters, brought together in a radar diagram that provides an instant visual summary of the park’s performance in economic, social and ecological terms. This radar diagram incorporates both qualitative and quantitative factors, thereby offering a benchmark against which future changes in performance can be measured, and the cost-effectiveness of present and future interventions measured. It also acts as a means of engagement with the public, illustrating and educating people around the many factors which can contribute to the performance of a the public space.
A Possibility Framework of potential interventions was created and measured against the radar diagram, with the highest-impact interventions, such as free wifi, being prioritised within the budget.
The final design was presented for community comment and received the support of most residents, meaning that construction could begin. At the same time, a compliance and engagement process with the City was launched, with the firm and continued support of City Parks.
Team: Our Future Cities, Claire Burgess.
Partial Funders: City of Cape Town Recreation and Parks Departments.