Published 10th June 2013

Ground force – Grimsby residents improve their local park

Community organiser Les Bonner reflects on how residents in Cleethorpes are revitalising their local park: from planting vegetables and fruit to setting up a ‘Park Watch’.

One day in October 2012, I spent the morning visiting about fifty houses and managed to complete a few more listenings, but it seemed it was just another ordinary day in the life of a Community Organiser.

At one of the houses I visited I was asked inside by an elderly man and spent over an hour carrying out listenings with him and his daughter – talking about the area – however, I went away not really expecting anything more from the visit.

A few days later I received a telephone call from Nicola, the lady I had met previously, and arranged to meet her again.  We met in a supermarket café and had a chat.  She told me about her local park and how it had changed for the worse since she used to play there as a young girl.  She still lives in the area and takes her daughter there to play.  Her vision was to start up a group to look after the park!

I was invited to her house later and met some of her friends, and they decided to get on board.

A few weeks later I had the opportunity to visit the Incredible Edible project in Todmorden, and I asked if I could bring some interested community members with me.  I invited Nicola and her partner to come with me and they both came away full of excitement.  The next thing I knew they were planning to plant vegetables in some of the flower beds in the area.

Sidney Park ‘Park Watch’ Group

Not long after the rhubarb, onions, parsley, strawberries, artichokes, and raspberries had been  planted I had another telephone call, from Nicola.  This time she wanted to start a Sidney Park “Park Watch” (a Neighbourhood Watch Group for the park) and one Saturday morning three of us visited the houses next to the park to see what support we could find.

Between us we signed up more than twenty members in a couple of hours.  The Park Watch group is still growing and is now working with the Police and other agencies to reduce the level of nuisance behaviour that takes place in the area.  The group is also planning to organise some activities to increase the number of people who visit the park.

I think it is good to do something which improves the park and makes it better for the community. I am starting to get more involved in the community and charity events. It is nice to be able to help and do your bit. It is a wonderful feeling to be here.
Ryan Aisthorpe, volunteer and local resident

Nicola had been asked to visit one of the local primary schools to talk about her plans and to ask if I would give her some support at the meeting.  As a result of her enthusiasm the school has asked to adopt some of the flower beds in the park for the schoolchildren to look after.

When I think back to the day in October when I met Nicola I think about the chain reaction that was started by a single conversation and I think about how much this new group has achieved in the first few months.

This is not the only example of the way people have decided to act to improve their community in this area after I have visited them, and I wonder how many more of these chain reactions could be started if community organisers were able to continue working in this area?

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