A look ahead for the National Park City movement in 2023

As we come to the end of 2022, with a new biodiversity agreement in place following the COP15 summit, and significant progress made in commitments around the climate crises at COP27 – two critical frameworks that help shape the concerted collaborative action needed to address the most urgent crises facing the world.

Considering these two milestones it’s useful to reflect on the path forward for the National Park City movement and take a look ahead for what’s in store in 2023 and beyond.

As things stand London became the world’s first National Park City in 2019 following seven years of grassroots movement building and campaigning. This was followed with Adelaide joining as the second National Park City in 2021, the first city to do so in the southern hemisphere. 

Each has engaged tens of thousands of people, celebrated with hundreds of events and regular activities, recruited hundreds of volunteer Rangers from the diverse communities of London, and begun to connect myriad groups and community organisations, governments and private organisations around a common cause of making our cities greener, healthier and wilder.

Looking towards 2023 I’m excited about the prospect of what the year ahead has to offer, and now having been in post for six months as Executive Director, I’m also impatient to rapidly extend the reach and impact of our work, as the goals set out in COP demand urgent progress.

Expanding our reach and impact

Becoming a National Park City is an important milestone, but it’s just the start of the journey, and it’s primarily a way of giving a coherent message and framework to the significant individual and community efforts that may already exist in each city.

In London we’ll be focusing on three programme areasPlacemaking, Rangers, and Neighbourhoods

Placemaking involves putting considerable effort in letting people in the city know they are in a National Park City, what that means for them and how they can get involved. 

We’ll be carrying out at least two more rounds of Ranger recruitment, to identify and appoint more passionate people to join our community – people who are often already active in conservation efforts, who may be teachers, activists, gardeners, artists and community leaders.

Each Ranger is a catalyst for change in each community, best able to understand where strengths lie, and how we might best support and collaborate in each Neighbourhood. 

And new for 2023 we’ll be launching our National Park City Neighbourhoods programme, where we intend to go deep in two or three local areas in London, to learn from the community what works and what’s needed, and to help connect and celebrate what it means to apply national park city thinking locally.

We’ll be elaborating on the evidence base for what National Park Cities are an inspiring and effective way to (as defined in the COP15 agreement) to:

“significantly increase the area and quality and connectivity of, access to, and benefits from green and blue spaces in urban and densely populated areas sustainably.” 

Target 12: from Kunming-Montreal Global biodiversity framework

The agreement clearly frames the next task as one of raising awareness, communication, education and mainstreaming understanding of biodiversity loss, its importance and critically what we can do as citizens and communities to help in cities – to hopefully make our cities greener, healthier and wilder.  

We’ll be creating lots of ways for partner organisations and businesses of all shapes and sizes to appropriately get involved providing direct and indirect support to each city’s operations and activities.

We’ll be sharing widely, growing our community globally, demonstrating the benefits towards individual wellbeing and the flouring of communities, leading to healthier places to live for all of us.

We’ll also want to expand our family of National Park Cities into regions that we’re not currently so active in, especially in South America, Africa and Asia.

Over the course of the year we’ll be exploring how we balance the different challenges of National Park City campaigns led by city governments as opposed to grassroots volunteer efforts, and how they can best align and work together. 

Emerging National Park Cities

In the next wave of National Park Cities, there are three active cities in the UK with campaigns to launch Glasgow, Cardiff and Southampton in the next 18 months. 

Glasgow got started way back in 2014 soon after London, around a small but committed group of volunteers looking to make the ‘dear green place’ into the first Scottish National Park City. Cardiff are led by a more recent campaign group, and are in the process of establishing themselves as a Charity and are pressing ahead with their journey. And in Southampton the volunteer led team are very active organising events and activities on the ground as they begin to shape what a National Park City might mean for them.

In Europe, Galway is well on the way to becoming the first Irish National Park City, and Breda in the Netherlands began their campaign two years ago, as a joint initiative between the City Government around their grassroots ‘City in a Park’ campaign. In the US Chattanooga in Tennessee began their campaign led by the city government this year, and are rapidly pushing to become the first National Park City in the Americas.

We’ll be working closely with all six cities as a cohort group to together work through the Journey Book and peer review process that sets out the steps for becoming accredited as a National Park City – an accreditation managed in conjunction with the National Park City Foundation, World Urban Parks and Salzburg Global Seminar.

Beyond this cohort the next wave of cities includes early stage discussions with Izmir in Turkey, Rotterdam in the Netherlands, Tokyo in Japan, Christchurch in New Zealand and many others.

With a fair wind we hope therefore to see seven or eight National Park Cities in place by the end of the year, on track for our overall target of 25×25 – having at least 25 National Park Cities around the world by 2025!

How to get involved

There are many ways to get involved with the National Park City movement in 2023.

If you’re curious about what’s involved in becoming a National Park City then you can join our monthly meetings which take place on the first Thursday of each month and rotate around from 8am, 2pm and 8pm GMT.

Sign up for our National Park City newsletter or the London National Park City Newsletter – we send out updates each month and will be sharing progress on emerging cities, and the tactics and activities adopted in each existing city.

If you’re close to or within an emerging or existing city then get in touch with them directly and say hello, they’ll be very glad to hear from you, if you’re an interested citizen, represent a potential partner organisation, or a business looking to help out and get involved.

And you can get in touch with us directly at the National Park City Foundation here. Don’t forget to follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Thanks for the warm welcome

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of the many dozens of people and supporters who have got the movement to where it is today, the amazing group of Trustees new and old who provide exceptional guidance and direction – not least our new Chair Navdeep Deol, along with David Cope, Emily Brennan, Emily Hamilton, Claire Eagle, Tim Webb, Jo Dimitri, Luis Alvarado, Melissa Miners, Eilish Kavanagh, and Lucy Livesley. 

Also additional thanks to Alison Barnes, Dan Raven-Ellison, Neil McCarthy , Mark Camley, Jennifer Dunn  and Dominic Regester who have led our efforts internationally.

Floree, Ed and Mark at London’s 3rd Anniversary party at Omved Gardens.

I’m incredibly grateful to Ed Santry and Floree Zama-Neagra who have been amazing colleagues to work with this year. And to all the Rangers in London – I’m excited about the opportunities we have to do more together in the year ahead!

For the moment, have a restful and happy break over the holidays, and I look forward to working more with you in the New Year as we grow the National Park City movement together in 2023!

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