The new head of Love Parks is calling on parks professionals to map community groups and establish new ones.
Anthea Thomas said Love Parks, expanded from Love Parks Week with the help of £416,450 lottery funding last month, is embarking on a programme of "mapping the engagement" of parks and parks groups at the same time as replacing website www.loveparksweek.org.uk.
Its initial aim is to establish friends groups, particularly in poor areas or where people use their parks less. There are currently 33 established with the help of the National Federation of Parks & Green Spaces (NFPGS), with which Love Parks is working closely.
Thomas's team, part of the Keep Britain Tidy charity that also runs the Green Flag Awards scheme, wants to link up green space stakeholders from friends groups, residents associations, community groups and charities such as Groundwork to local authorities, contractors and industry organisations such as The Parks Alliance to enable them to share knowledge and provide support. Linking up the groups could also lead to a stronger lobbying position for parks in the run-up to the 2015 general election.
Love Parks supports the NFPGS petition calling for an inquiry into and the supply of adequate parks funding. It currently has some 2,231 signatures.
Thomas said Love Parks would target the West Midlands, Yorkshire, Newcastle and Sunderland initially but also wants to better support existing groups to grow, put on events and apply for funding. Research for the Heritage Lottery Fund's (HLF) State of UK Public Parks report published in June found that parks are being hit hardest in the North West. North East, Yorkshire and the Humber and are at their best in London and the East Midlands.
The HLF recently reported that the number of applications for funding from local authorities has dropped while those from town councils and community groups has risen. Love Parks wants to encourage this and to ensure that not just middle-class people benefit. "In some lower-income areas community support is very strong but they might not know where to go for funding," said Thomas.
She added that for Love Parks, a green space need not be a local authority park - it could be a housing association garden. Supported events could be picnics or community fairs. Love Parks wants to work more closely with contractors who already support volunteers and those who want to start and establish further links with health-care professionals.
"It's about teaching people that parks and green spaces can be used for many things and giving them the courage to do that," she said.
The new website, due to launch in January, will be "as interactive as possible" and will link better to other websites and social media.
"The Love Parks brand is for everyone," said Thomas. "I'm really excited. The possibilities are massive." Existing Love Parks funding is expected to last until March 2016 but Keep Britain Tidy is investigating other sources.
Inwood Park - Young people seize initiative
"Our Park Presents, Hounslow" was a film screening of Up and community fair organised by young Polish people who the contractor Carillion had helped organise into a friends group after spotting "a group of people hanging around Inwood Park".
It helped them get funding and support from Love Parks Week for the event on 2 August. Love Parks chief Anthea Thomas said it had been a wonderful community event. "It showed that even if something looks intimidating is not necessarily like that. In this case it was just young people who were bored."