Interacting with Greenspace: Public-Private Partnerships for Planning and Managing Parks and Woodlands

By Ann Van Herzele, Kevin Collins, and Veerle Heyens
Brussels (2005)- Greenspace, from that small open area at the end of the street to the large scale-woodland on the urban fringe, is one of those issues in which so many players have a shared interest. Where public parks and other accessible open spaces in people’s living environment really ‘work’, they are invariably at the centre of people’s lives, where they meet, walk, play, and enjoy nature.

Cities, town, and suburbs are increasingly rich in different types of green spaces. In addition to traditional public areas such as parks and woodlands, many different types of greenspace are now evident, together with new kinds of ownership or co-management arrangements. Children’s farms, community gardens, school nature areas, and other small spaces create a need for intensive care and so provide many opportunities for active participation, training, and education.
The contribution that attractive greenspace can make to localities and more broadly, to the quality of life in towns and cities, is now seen as being dependent upon a greater level of engagement between the ‘professionals’ on one hand, and the public whom they serve on the other. Central to the modern approach is a greater emphasis on the exchange of knowledge and the development of ideas and action on the ground with a wide array of users, neighbors, friends, and community groups.
This handbook is aimed at providing an essential starting point and a source of inspiration for undertaking practices which will benefit both greenspaces and the people who use and enjoy them. It was originally published in 2003 as ‘Het park mèt iedereen. Ideeënboek voor participatie in groen’, as part of the Flemish ‘Vision for Harmonious Park and Greenspace Management. This management vision, which is based on the concept of sustainable development, strives for a balance between measures focusing on people, nature and the environment.
Over the last two years, this handbook has been put into practice successfully throughout Flanders. Now the guidebook shares the approaches and methods more widely with practitioners in greenspace management and community action who are working beyond the borders of Belgium thanks to Kevin Collins, a forester from Ireland with experience in community participation, who helped produce a revised and updated English-language version of the handbook.
The handbook begins by looking at the distinct reasons for involving people in greenspace.
With these objectives in mind, Chapter 3 discusses selected key questions relating to the involvement of the wider public, drawing in practical examples from throughout Europe. Instead of starting with a ‘how to’ set of guidelines or a list of criteria for best practice, this chapter sets out to observe what actually happens in practice when people participate with professionals.
Chapter 4 offers advice to get started with a participative process and to effectively build a time plan of the actions envisaged through the process.
The final Chapter describes a range of tried-and-tested methods and techniques, each of which can be implemented either on its own or in creative combination with others to build a long-term participatory process.
Download the handbook: Interacting with Greenspace: Public-Private Partnerships for Planning and Managing Parks and Woodlands.