Parks are more of a focal point for local communities than ever before. For this reason, the manager is like the park’s guardian. Working with many partners, they ensure the park is being enjoyed safely, suitably and respectfully by many different groups and for many purposes. The parks manager must also work with external contractors and members of the community to oversee the upkeep and improvement of the park’s horticulture and ecology.
What is best about being a parks manager?
"Having the opportunity to safeguard the management of a national treasure for future generations and the pleasure of seeing visitors and the public using and enjoying the space," says Windsor Great Park parks superintendent Tom Jarvis. Similarly, park manager for Hyde Park Andy Williams says: "The sense of achievement from managing world-class historic landscapes for current and future generations to enjoy."
What skills, attributes, knowledge and experience are most in demand for this role in the recruitment market at the moment — and why?
Communication and diplomacy skills
City of London director of open spaces Colin Buttery says: "Communication is very high on the list but also diplomacy and the capability to negotiate because quite often there are very diverse groups of users of open spaces." Williams notes that, in addition to a strong background in landscape management, he looks for someone who is good at building relationships. "My job involves working with a variety of stakeholders and these relationships are key to my role."
Williams says: "The ability to motivate and inspire and create a ‘can-do’ culture are important qualities." He also notes that project management skills are "a must" and event management skills.
Despite the fact that the role of parks manager has changed hugely over the past couple of decades, Buttery says the need for land management skills has "remained pretty consistent, so anyone managing the site has to have that knowledge". Williams notes: "Qualifications and experience in landscape management will always be a must." He adds that candidates need an understanding of environmental best practice and biodiversity.
Jarvis says parks managers should possess the ability to prioritise and have good financial awareness "to manage budgets to deliver the maximum in terms of standards and benefits for the public/visitors".
What sort of qualifications and experience would you need to see from a candidate to be convinced that they possess these qualities?
Buttery says parks managers would originally have come from traditional horticultural training, probably though an apprenticeship and then a higher-level qualification. "That route is still available but, because the role has become more diverse, parks managers now originate from a wider range of academic or practical backgrounds. I would still expect a bit of experience in horticulture." Jarvis notes that candidates should have a good range of practical experience in a varied range of environments, backed up by a nationally recognised qualification. Candidates also need "a positive attitude and a genuine desire to work in the horticultural industry", he adds.
Are any of the skills that are in demand transferable from any other horticulture roles?
"Of course," says Williams. "The horticulture sector has always provided opportunities for progression. This is why apprenticeships are crucial in building the next generation of managers." Jarvis notes that should someone switch from another area there may be technical challenges "in terms of knowledge of specific areas of expertise, but attitude, a willingness to learn and adapt, and a genuine love of the environment are important". Buttery has employed parks managers from many different backgrounds, including landscape architecture, floristry and production horticulture.