“The fourth part of what a national park city is about, …[a part that is] absolutely vital, is that it is a way of organising. It is a way of coming together, sharing best practices, finding new investment, finding new ways to protect the landscape” explains Daniel Ellison-Raven. London’s National Park City movement is managed by a charity called the National Park City Foundation. Having secured sponsorship from the outdoor wear brand Timberland, the Foundation launched in fall 2019 the London National Park City Rangers programme.
The rangers network is made up of 54 volunteers with diverse backgrounds, areas of interest and locations. It is supported by two part-time ranger coordinators employed by the foundation. The objective is for the rangers to become trusted go-to people in their communities to facilitate projects, educational activities and youth programmes helping to tackle the climate and ecological crises, scale up urban greening initiatives and inspire people to get outside. For example, in Merton, a Climate Emergency Working Group made up of members of the public and set up by the borough is working on a local Climate Action Plan. Members of the group didn’t know a similar initiative was on-going in the neighbouring Borough of Haringey.
The local London National Park City rangers have connections to both projects and might be able to broker a conversation between the two groups and encourage an exchange of knowledge and ideas. The Merton Group also includes a smaller working party focusing on green infrastructure and the local Rangers are beginning to support that work too, considering – with others – how to access funding and advice on how to reach out to landowners. Other initiatives the National Park City Foundation is relying on in London to deliver on its aspiration to become an organising force includes a recently launched school network, and a soon-to-be-announced 100 strong people’s assembly.
“There is a lot going on in London, but it is not as joined up as it needs to be… wouldn’t it be wonderful to have – along with the physical map we already have – a map showing all the groups and the initiatives they are leading?” asks Ben Smith, Trustee at the National Park City Foundation. “We see the National Park City as giving a lot of these groups a voice, and bringing awareness of what others are doing, and connecting people up to make projects happen” he adds. When asked about where he would like the London National Park City to be in five to ten years of time, he explains: “I would like to be able to take my friends on a walk, and show them lots of projects that have been facilitated, catalysed or improved by the National Park City movement and be able to explain to them how these projects are better than they would otherwise be as a result of our support”.