The concept of ParkWatch and its operation is similar to the tried and proved Neighbourhood Watch Scheme, whereby a group of committed householders band together with a Coordinator and the support of the Police, to protect a valuable asset ... their house.
Park Users have similarly banded together, with the Police, and their Local Council to protect a valuable asset ... their Park
The History and Ethos of Parks
The residents saw their Park, usually bequeathed to the local residents, as an asset and used them as their own personal recreation ground and somewhere children could play safely. They also saw it as an oasis of peace and sanctuary, where the trees, shrubs, flowers and greenery could be seen and appreciated, especially by those without gardens, somewhere to get away from the hustle and bustle and traffic noise, and somewhere to walk and exercise the dog, cycle or jog.
Previously, Parks had a dedicated Park Keeper who kept order and locked up each night. However, due to financial constraints, we have seen the demise of the dedicated Park Keeper, leaving a big void. As a result, some Parks declined in importance and were taken over by the vandal or the anti-social, forcing out the law-abiding, thus reducing the safety of the elderly and the young.
Local residents were left with two options, do nothing or join a ParkWatch group.
Just like the committed householder who saw household crime increase, the Park users said "enough is enough" and formed ParkWatch groups, not only in Pittville Park, but in many areas all over the UK. Park users who join a ParkWatch scheme are not alone as they join forces with Local Council Officers, Rangers, Ward Councillors and the Police to reverse the decline of their Park.
It was proved in Pittville Park and it has worked well all over the UK; one ParkWatch group in Birmingham summarised by stating:
"Previously we had seen our local park go into decline while many of us were content to point a finger, criticise or just complain that something should be done, without taking any direct constructive action."
Ownership of the Park
By joining a ParkWatch scheme the local residents are making a silent declaration of ownership of their Park. It's their first move in the arrest of the decline of their Park. The local residents can, by attracting the law-abiding Park user, force out the Park abuser.
Prior to the Commencement of Pittville ParkWatch Scheme in November 2003, a log had been taken of incidents of vandalism from 2002 to 2003. It was clearly observed by all, that the incidents were many, both in number caused and the value of the damage/repair.
Since the start-up of ParkWatch a much improved trend has been seen with the incidents running at an almost negligible number compared to 2000-2003.
Looking to the future and recognising how exposed our Park is, especially at night, a total elimination of vandalism, no matter how desirable, would be an impossible target to achieve. Realistically we must expect that infrequent and isolated incidents will, and do, occur. But applying the same proven formula, as past years, of working closely with the Police, CBC staff and Ward Councillors and attracting the law-abiding to use the Park as much as possible, we can hold the vandalism incidents at the same past low incident rate.
The ParkWatch model, as tried and successfully tested in Pittville, has now been introduced into many other Parks in Cheltenham.
Update Autumn 2009
Expansion of ParkWatch in Pittville
As already stated above, Pittville’s ParkWatch came into being at the end of 2003 in direct response to an extremely high incident rate of vandalism which was being perpetrated to the Park’s structures and plant life during 2000/3.
Over the immediate succeeding years ParkWatch extended its remit to the surrounding areas of the Long Garden, situated between Pittville Lawn and Evesham Road, the two Pittville Crescent Gardens, and Clarence and Wellington Squares. ParkWatch members have also shown a keen interest in the Pittville Estate’s tree lined grass verges recognising that accumulatively they constitute an attractive and large part of Pittville’s heritage. They do require monitoring and any damage reported. Equally ParkWatch encourages replacement tree planting on the verges, where necessary.
Expansion of interest in the Feathered Wildlife on the Lakes
Added to this territorial growth ParkWatch also saw a growth in the intense interest of some of their members and a variety of visitors to the Park in protecting the Wildlife of the Lakes, the Swans, and especially each year’s new brood of Cygnets. Other wild birds and their broods are seen and enjoyed on the Lakes, such as the Great Crested Grebe, the Heron, the Coot, the Moorhen, and of course, the predominant Mallard. As with all young creatures the Cygnets, Ducklings and Chicks hold a great attraction to the equally young visitor, together with the parent/grandparent, and the photographic enthusiast.
This additional Wildlife interest is supported by ParkWatch and CBC as it meets one of ParkWatch’s principle objectives of “continually attracting the law-abiding visitor into the Park, thus displacing the vandal.”
Fishing and the Protection of the Lake’s Wildlife
Running parallel with the interest in the Lake’s feathered Wildlife is the interest in the Lake’s Fish, and Fishing, as an allowed legitimate seasonal sport. ParkWatch members have, over the years, witnessed mature and experienced fishermen co-existing with the feathered Wildlife, as these fishermen are observed tidying up their lines and hooks, before departure. Experienced Fishermen are also noticed giving guidance to younger family members on good Fishing practice. However the younger inexperienced and unsupervised angler can and does present a serious danger to the Lake’s Wildlife by using the wrong tackle, allowing hooks to snag/detach, and not tidying up lines and retrieving hooks on departure.
If not already aware the reader is advised that a fishhook swallowed by a Swan and penetrating its gullet invariably means death to that Swan. The legs of all the Lake’s birds are also vulnerable to entanglement with fishing lines and a bird’s leg can be permanently disabled through the loss of a blood supply to the extremities of the leg. A bird thus injured will not be able to feed itself properly and an untimely death is usually the result of this type of injury.
Wildlife Co-existing with Fishing and Recommendations
ParkWatch has no enforcing power, but through the inclusion of this Wildlife Addendum in the Friends of Pittville Website and parallel publicity, ParkWatch hope to get the following important recommendation across:
Protecting the Lake’s Wildlife:
ParkWatch recommends that all Fishing lines and hooks are collected and accounted for at the end of each fishing session. And, where possible, the younger angler be given adequate supervision and training which will ensure the Lake’s Wildlife is taken into consideration in parallel with fishing the Lake.
ParkWatch is hereby encouraging all the readers of this update to pass on the message that with due care and attention the Lake’s Wildlife can co-exist with Fishing.
Don't Let it Happen to You - Advice from NHW
We are fortunate to be able to draw on the combined knowledge of five Neighbourhood Watch schemes in our area. This shared knowledge gives each resident a fuller awareness of current crime and recommended practical precautions.