Meet the first Executive Director of the National Park City Foundation

The National Park City Foundation and London National Park City are pleased to announce the appointment of Mark Cridge as their first Executive Director.

Mark joins the Foundation following a seven year stint as Chief Executive of the civic technology charity mySociety, just ahead of the third anniversary of London becoming the first National Park City this July.

He joins a wonderful team of dedicated Trustees and advisers, along with an amazing group of 150 volunteer rangers and coordinators who work all across London to make our city healthier, wilder and greener.

Paul de Zylva, Chair of the National Park City Foundation said:

“The National Park City movement takes its next big leap by appointing Mark Cridge as our first Executive Director and Chief of London National Park City. We’re delighted Mark will bring his insights from business, community action and societal change to support citizens, professionals and organisations to make more cities greener, healthier and wilder – better for their residents and better for the planet. Mark will both lead London National Park City and help other cities become National Park Cities.”

The National Park City movement started with a simple idea; how might we think differently about the way we live in our cities if we applied the principles and purpose of National Parks to urban areas. An idea first applied to London, then more recently to Adelaide in Australia. They have scheduled more than a hundred events this June to celebrate becoming the world’s second official National Park City. Our vision is to grow the National Park City family across the world to benefit people and nature with a target of 25 cities signed-up by 2025.

Mark Cridge, Executive Director said of his appointment;

“Over the next few months I will be focused on meeting and making as many supporters as I can, championing the work of our National Park City Ranger community, and helping establish the next chapter of the London National Park City. I’ll be asking our partners to recommit to the principles of the National Park City, and asking how we can support and enhance their work. I’ll be working closely with dozens of other cities around the world on their own journeys to becoming unique and vibrant National Park Cities.”

London is home to almost 15,000 species, living alongside humans, and is around 50% green and blue space, made-up of acres of public parks, green belt, front gardens, canals, ponds and pockets of nature and wildlife.

Access to nature and the outdoors is essential for the health and wellbeing of all citizens, but it’s not always accessible to those who might benefit the most, and most of us probably don’t consider our cities as being wild and alive places.

The National Park City Foundation exists to change that.

Our purpose is to introduce more people to the nature around them, to celebrate the amazing work carried out by so many conservation and grassroots organisations already working hard across London and beyond. And to help connect and support those who want to volunteer within their communities to improve their neighbourhoods and link with others to maximise impact or share resources.

London National Park City benefits from the support of the Mayor of London who signed the Charter making London the first such National Park City in July 2019, and received the support of a majority of local ward councillors across every London Borough.

Since then of course the pandemic has shaped all of our lives disproportionately, making it more difficult to meet and come together in the ways we may have liked. Thankfully the deep appreciation and fondness of Londoners for green space and increased use of parks and public spaces during the pandemic has elevated them to vital community resources; central to the cultural, health and heritage needs of communities. Greening also adds value to transport routes, local economies and children’s development.

While there are many divisions and challenges, it is clear, people live better lives in cities with access to quality, well-designed green and blue spaces, where nature helps manage the climate, reduces pollution and addresses many physical and mental health issues without need for medication. So now is a great time to build on the idea of what our cities might be like to live in over the years to come and the central role nature plays in our lives.

Dan Raven-Ellison, founder of the National Park City movement said:

“This is a great moment for London and the international National Park City movement. Now more than ever we know the importance of urban people having a better relationship with nature. Today, Mark is becoming the first Chief of the world’s first National Park City and will bring new leadership and energy which will ultimately improve life not just for Londoners, but urban life around the world…”

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