An alternative approach to community park design
Reports on the consultation process which took place with landscape designers and community groups to develop a public park in St Albans, Christchurch.
The park in Packe Street project began when a group from St Albans area encouraged the Christchurch City Council to by a parcel of land which contained two large landmark trees, a small orchard and two old houses which are now demolished.
Report by Steve Sopinka. Published in Landscape New Zealand, Jan/Feb 1997; p.4-5
Community Gardens Model
Offering Packe Street Park and Community Garden as an example of how old domestic gardens can be developed and managed for the on-going benefit of everybody:
Packe Street Park and Community Garden came into existence in an unusual way.
In 1995 two adjacent houses in Packe Street came on to the market at the same time. Local people were soon aware that a group of children had discovered that the old locked-in orchard hidden behind and belonging to one of these properties was a nice place to play in. It was also noted that the only three big trees in our block (from Canon Street to Edgeware Road) were sited on this land and would probably be lost if the land were to be subdivided. In addition, the whole locality had been degraded by the thirty year designation on Madras Street so when that motorway- project was abandoned residents had a feeling that something good should be done to give the locality a bit of a lift.
Thus the campaign started to persuade the Council to buy the land for a pocket park. The process took a year and with support from several quarters including our local councillor – Garry Moore – the land was bought as a reserve in 1996. Because it had been purchased outside budget and there was therefore no ready CCC money for development we, “The Friends of the Park at 125 – 129 Packe Street Incorporated” offered to have a design drawn up and to create the park in partnership with the Council. That partnership was established under the Adopt-a-Park scheme. (You can see from the name of our society that we had a legal name before our park did!)
The first step taken by our society was to employ Di Lucas, landscape architect, to listen to us and to draw up a plan. It was her suggestion that sessions should be run over a six week period to find out what the children wanted. The outcome is a design that has stood the test of usage very well.
The division of labour is generally as follows: Council cuts the grass and takes away the big prunings that we cannot compost on site. They also do their audits, maintain the play equipment and (since the introduction of wheelie bins) service the rubbish bin. We plant and weed, water and prune, collect any litter, deal with stray dog droppings, put on events and generally provide a benign presence in the park. Parents say that they are happy for their children to play there unsupervised because chances are one of the gardeners will be in there working.
Ours is a Pick-and-Share Garden. Being a reserve it is open to everyone all of the time. Horticulturally it is a very rich place. In the equivalent of three sections you will find four kinds of pear, both cooking and eating apples as well as two varieties of crab apple; Mediterranean fruits such as olives, figs and various grapes; South American foods such a feijoa, oca, mashua, and ugni; five varieties of plum; two kinds of quince, red currants, black currents, raspberries and strawberries; two peach trees, an apricot and several nectarines, walnuts and hazelnuts. Then there are herbs including a bay tree and all sorts of flowers to pick. We have a recycled lock-up shed and plenty of tools.
At present we are building raised beds from chimney bricks so that we can produce more vegetables above dog-leg-lifting height. . Council recently supplied some good topsoil and fine compost. In summertime there are beans, tomatoes, zucchini, and salad greens but we can never keep up with needs. Our main social events are the big Matariki working bee in June and the Carol Singing in December. For the last sixteen years our weekly working bee has been held on Thursday afternoon with tea served at 3pm. Our park is a heavily used and well-loved asset in the community. The key to its success is the respectful relationship between CCC, City Care and our Society.
Peggy Kelly firstname.lastname@example.org for AvON, July 2012