Dundee Greenspace Volunteers

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How adopting open spaces can deliver organisation and Government policy and strategy objectives…

 

Name of Access Authority: City of Dundee Council          
Name of group: Dundee Volunteers in Greenspace
Location: City of Dundee Council area         
Project: Dundee Open Space Strategy
Key points:

  • Encouraging community involvement
  • Links to other organisations plans and policies
  • Enlist the support of relevant organisations
  • Well maintained paths and green places have particularbenefits for urban communities

About the Dundee Volunteers in Greenspace

Well planned outdoor access is socially inclusive and improves health, supports sustainable travel and improves quality of life. Dundee’s new Outdoor Access Strategy sits in a hierarchy of strategies including a Public Open Space Strategy, Tree and Urban Forestry Policy and Play Strategy. These and other documents together guide Dundee agencies in the use and provision of Dundee’s green and open spaces.

However, the delivery of the actions contained in these strategies requires help from a variety of sources and that’s where the volunteer groups come in.

Finding resources (people, money, tools and materials, training, time)

With public sector staff and project funding resources becoming under increasing pressure finding effective ways to maintain and develop Dundee’s path network has resulted in a bringing together of people, organisations and budgets under the umbrella of a new Outdoor Access Strategy for 2012- 2017.

People

Dundee has a large number of environmental and other groups with in interest in developing and maintaining green spaces. For example, Dundee Countryside Ranger Service run regular task days at green spaces across the city. The “Get Your Wellies on for Wildlife” programme encourages local community participation in habitat and path management. This community participation has been recognised with 2 of the sites they work on receiving Green Flag Awards in successive years.

In another example the Ardler area of Dundee was once dominated by high rise flats. However, these were demolished in 2004 and replaced with a much more ‘people-friendly’ housing development. The Ardler Village Trust was formed to help local residents play a greater part in decisions that affected them and their local area. The Trust is keen for people to use and look after the path network and wider environment of their ‘estate’. To help with this the Trust organises clean-ups via ‘Litter Walks’ which also carries out minor maintenance such as lopping overhanging branches etc.

Other groups not normally labelled as volunteers, are playing a part too. The Douglas Jolly Walkers, supported by Living Streets, have carried out open space quality assessments, identifying issues which would make their local area that bit better, while going about their usual health walks.

Money

The Council has been particularly successful in attracting funding from a range of sources specifically to help deliver path projects that are ‘fit for purpose’ for the needs and aspirations of urban communities. For example, support from Forestry Commission particularly as part of their Woodlands In and Around Towns scheme and the Scottish Government’s Community Regeneration Fund. Scottish Natural Heritage also directed grants to Dundee specifically to encourage an urban population to enjoy their local path network.

By clearly demonstrating a strong, joined up, partnership approach Dundee has attracted funders who are more confident that their grants and other investments will yield the best return in terms of objectives met. For example,

The Dundee Tree and Urban Forestry Policy also highlighted the benefits of co-ordination with its emphasis on identifying gaps and adding value to existing activity. Dundee City Council and volunteers from the local Scottish Wildlife Trust worked together in a successful bid to the Forestry Commission’s Woodland In and Around Towns Challenge Fund resulting in the reconstruction of nearly a mile of path and associated woodland and habitat work improvement. Volunteer time in maintaining the route contributed considerably to the match funding required.

Broughty Ferry Environmental Project and the associated Dighty Connect have championed volunteer involvement and development. Funding bids have been secured from Communities Scotland, Scottish Executive and Scottish Natural Heritage for staff to lead practical sessions that include path management near the Dighty, and to work with volunteers to develop their ideas. Works of art have been developed along the Dighty and Green Circular, based on local historical studies, and volunteers have also developed theatrical performances, biodiversity projects and poetry. Variety of outlook certainly helps maintain funding.

Pulling resources to achieve common path adoption goals was also included in ‘ActiveChances ActiveChoices’ the Dundee Sport and Physical Activity Strategy 2010-2015 and how it contributes to Dundee Single Outcome Agreement. This strategy seeks to increase the level of volunteering in communities by providing opportunities such as volunteering in green spaces.

Tools and materials

Most of these either come from a stock held by the Countryside Ranger Service or individual volunteer groups. Materials for small scale resurfacing work are either supplied by Ranger Service, ‘recycled’ on site or given as contributions ‘in-kind’.

Training

Middleton Wood is being developed and looked after by local people as a Community Woodland. The management team is made up of school teachers, local residents and City of Dundee Council staff. Activities and events are co-ordinated by the Ranger Service with the new local Urban Ranger Service helping more people to become involved in the wood. The Management Team have recently taken delivery of a woodland portacabin which, amongst other uses, will make an indoor base for volunteers to gather and receive task briefings. This is just one example of a range of community projects.

In terms of insurance most individual groups carry their own. Countryside Ranger-led groups are covered by Dundee City Council insurance.

Time

Most of the groups have events about once a month which are advertised on their own websites, by the Ranger Service and/or via Dundee Voluntary Action which promotes volunteering of all types in and around Dundee.

The Ranger Service keeps a record of work done on paths and works with the Outdoor Access Officer and Local Access Forum to coordinate path related tasks.

Plans for the Future

Essentially deliver the proposed actions in the Outdoor Access Strategy via the already established Dundee Partnership. Further strategy development includes the soon to be launched Outdoor Learning Strategy. The delivery of the key five 5 documents listed below are complimentary:

  • Outdoor Learning Strategy,
  • Outdoor Access Strategy,
  • Sport and Physical Activity Strategy,
  • Public Open Space Strategy and Developing Friends of Parks and Open Spaces

Together they ensure our green spaces and paths will continue to be managed and well used. The volunteers will continue to benefit from greater physical activity and improved self-esteem. Green space users will continue to enjoy great natural facilities, fresh air and better physical and mental health.

Lessons Learned

Dundee’s Outdoor Access Strategy has been an important base on which to build a variety of local path improvement projects. Although perhaps not given that actual title their aims are similar and encouragingly include a wide variety of voluntary, community groups. Other key lessons from ‘ticking all the boxes’ are:

  1. By linking path maintenance with other key environmental, economic and social issues it has received greater political commitment at local level than if it were a ‘stand-alone’ issue.
  2. Volunteers come with different knowledge and understanding about paths in terms of acceptable/unacceptable condition and what might realistically be required to bring path up to standard.
  3. There is still work to be done in terms of harnessing the volunteering potential for more structured Adopt A Path monitoring and maintenance type schemes.
  4. The Outdoor Access Strategy and other related activities has brought in many different partners such as cycling commuters, youth projects and the unemployed not just ‘the usual suspects’ of retired ‘country folk’.
  5. The experience in Dundee is particularly relevant to other urban areas such as those in the Central Scotland Green Network area.

© 2014 Paths for All - Registered Scottish Charity No: SC025535, Company Limited by Guarantee No: 168554 inc. 19 Sept 1996 at Companies House, Edinburgh