Community involvement in urban nature conservation : case studies of the Urban Wildlife Group 1980-85
The effectiveness of the strategies employed by the Urban Wildlife Group (a voluntary conservation organisation) to provide and manage three urban nature parks has been evaluated, using a multiple methods methodology. Where the level of community interest and commitment to a project is high, the utilisation of the community nature park strategy (to maximise benefits to UWG and the community) is warranted. Where the level of interest and commitment of the local community is low, a strategy designed to encourage limited involvement of the community is most effective and efficient. The campaign strategy, whereby the community and UWG take direct action to oppose a threat of undesirable development on a nature park, is assessed to be a sub-strategy, rather than a strategy in its own right. Questionnaire surveys and observations studies have revealed that urban people appreciate and indeed demand access to nature parks in urban areas, which have similar amenity value to that provided by countryside recreation sites. Urban nature parks are valued for their natural character, natural features (trees, wild flowers) peace and quiet, wildlife and openness. People use these sites for a mixture of informal and mainly passive activities, such as walking and dog walking. They appear to be of particular value to children for physical and imaginative play. The exact input of time and resources that UWG has committed to the projects has depended on the level of input of the local authority. The evidence indicates that the necessary technical expertise needed to produce and manage urban nature parks, using a user-oriented approach is not adequately provided by local authorities. The methods used in this research are presented as an `evaluation kit' that may be used by practitioners and researchers to evaluate the effectiveness of a wide range of different open spaces and the strategies employed to provide and manage them.