May 2016 ....

Do Something Great ...

This year the BBC is encouraging audiences to 'Do Something Great' and discover their ‘inner volunteer’. They hope to inspire people to get involved in voluntary work not just to help others but because of the benefits voluntary work can bring to the volunteers themselves.

Over the next few months the FoEP will be asking members of the local community to volunteer for a range of activities to improve the Park. But some of you may ask ‘Why?’ Why should members of the public volunteer to pick up litter, prune bushes or create gardens? Shouldn’t this be done by the Borough Council and its agents? After all, they own the Park, don’t they?

The Borough Council is indeed the legal owner of Eastfield Park but there is a sense in which we all ‘own’ it. We elect Councillors and, through Council Tax, pay the salaries of Council Officers. They are appointed to serve us and manage the Borough’s assets on our behalf. In the case of parks, they have contracted out a range of maintenance work including grass cutting, tree maintenance, litter picking and emptying dog and litter bins. So if the Council has appointed contractors to do the work, why should members of the public volunteer to do the work for them?

The answer is that many aspects of maintenance are not included in the contract. To have included them would have proved far too expensive without a large increase in Council Tax. For example, contractors are expected to cut back vegetation encroaching on the surfaced pathways in the Park but they have no obligation to maintain informal tracks through woodland created by repeated use. Although litter picking is carried out regularly on the grassed areas of the Park, the wooded areas are largely ignored. The contractors will remove large items from the lake but it usually takes weeks for them to do it and there is no routine clearing of lake or ponds.

Most park users want to see minor pathways kept open and litter removed from the woodland and ponds; many would like to see the Park enhanced in other ways such as with wildflower meadows or flower beds. The only practical way of getting this work done at present is to ‘do it yourself’. Having said that, NBC is not in favour of members of the public taking things into their own hands, partly because of legal and Health & Safety concerns, and partly because such activities need agreement and co-ordination. The Council does, however, consent to recognised community groups with public liability insurance, such as the FoEP, carrying out conservation and other work agreed by the Park Management Committee.

But there are other reasons for volunteering. On a number of occasions the FoEP have tried to obtain external funding for Park improvements. Grant application forms often ask what ‘matched funding’ we have. Matched funding need not be an actual sum of money but might be gifts in kind or voluntary hours. One form even specified how much one hour of volunteer time was worth in cash terms.

Our bid for extra funding for the Junior Play Area is a case in point. Potential funders have asked what volunteer work are we doing to support the project. Clearly, installing the play equipment and safety surfaces are tasks for professionals but we have also added a garden around the play area, partly because we think it a good idea in its own right but also because it provides an opportunity for members of the community to get involved in a voluntary capacity.

The BBC website (link) provides information about the personal benefits of volunteering. If you are interested in volunteering in Eastfield Park you can contact the FoEP through this website (link) or via our Facebook page (link). Look out for details of specific projects on Facebook.

Other News ....

Northampton College students have again been working to improve Eastfield Park. Strictly, they are not volunteers since the work is part of their course but their efforts are gtreatly appreciated. They have mainly been involved in picking up litter but they have also done some work clearing over-grown paths. We hope they will also help fill in some of the holes on the Park.

Students Help Out

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Click on pictures for caption and larger view.

Number of Patrols: Fifteen
Dog Issues: Spoke to a woman with four dogs, all she reported as ex Police Dogs, and advised her to be aware of the pack mentality and how other dog walkers can feel intimidated. Also advised not to leave scraps of food for the crows and rooks.
Littering Issues: Medium level with bin capacity not exceeded.
Graffiti Incidents: None reported.
Anti-Social Behaviour: Fairly quiet at time of report
Length of Grass: Acceptable at the moment but under continuous review. One area marked out as SET-ASIDE, requested by Dr Vic Smith.
State of litter bins: Largely acceptable with two reported as unacceptable.
April and May have been extremely busy months for the Rangers Team with much time being taken up with other parks issues. Nevertheless, fly tipping at Greenside was dealt with and some dog walkers concerns tackled. Generally the Park has looked good and the litter bin removed from the lake has remained in place.
Dog owners are very largely picking up their dogs mess; levels of walkers up with the better weather. Owners who fail to pick up their animals mess will be dealt with by the Ranger when witnessed. I am continuing to carryout spot checks on dog walkers and asking individuals if they have dog bags on them. This challenging process hopefully will encourage people to carry bags at all times. This approach does appear to be working with the park largely looking good and with most dog walkers picking up.

Eastfield Park Ranger's Report

May 2016

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