COMMUNITY leaders at Hardie Park in Stanford-le-Hope have won a grant of close to £200,000 to be invested in their future development and that of five other parks in the borough.
The volunteers, known as ‘Friends of Hardie Park’ led the way in a partnership with Thurrock Council to apply for cash from charitable foundation NESTA, the Big Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The three organisations are behind the ‘Rethinking Parks’ initiative which aims to help those with creative and innovative ideas for running public spaces and plans to help them thrive.
Projects that have been awarded funding have all demonstrated excellent potential for changing the way that public space is used and managed, with NESTA and its partners praising them for “putting communities at the heart of ideas to make parks more sustainable and vibrant”.
The Friends of Hardie Park have been trailblazers in community involvement in Thurrock, where local organisations are stepping up to the plate to run parks which Thurrock Council had effectively mothballed.
As well as Hardie Park, the grant of £184,155 will be shared with Bonnygate Park in South Ockendon, Aveley Recreation Park, Tilbury’s Daisy Field, Grays Beach and Gobions Park in East Tilbury.
Community engagement has been behind the revival of interest in local parks.
Hardie Park led the way but not far behind have been volunteers at Grays Beach where the Lightship cafe project has been lauded as a huge success.
Recently residents in Aveley have been very active in litter-picking and working to clean up the park while residents around nearby Bonnygate Park in South Ockendon – helped by the ‘OurOckendon’ Neighbourhood Association – held a meeting in late September at the British Legion Hall, recruiting local folk to work towards an improved open space.
In Tilbury community groups, including children from local schools, have been working to clean up the Daisy Field, while East Tilbury has seen a lot of work on improving Gobions Park, including the installation of new play equipment.
Rob Groves, chief executive officer of Friends of Hardie Park, said: “We are delighted with the award. It is recognition of the work we have achieved to date in transforming and reviving a disused park into a thriving public space with a community cafe for all to enjoy.
“The five chosen parks are at various stages of transformation and each will work with us and NESTA to benefit as they receive this funding.
“Different groups of volunteers will take varied approaches to the responsibility of the management of their parks.
“A package of learning and support will be created over the year period with help from NESTA in order to spread the approach to other areas. It’s our opportunity to empower our parks with the management skills to ensure sustainability.”