Night fishing is helping protect our parks - and friends groups will have an increasingly important role in our green spaces in the future.
Those are among the issues to emerge at the latest Doncaster Free Round table, on parks and open spaces, held at Potteric Carr Nature Reserve.
Today we publish part three of our report.
Chaired by the Fress Press' David Kessen, our panel was: Andy Dalton, Gateway manager; Potteric Carr, Andy Rutherford, Doncaster Council's head of street scene and highways operations; Tony Sockett, Bentley Area Community Partnership; Don Crabtree, Friends of Sandall Park; Francis Jackson, Friends of Askern Lake; Clarissa Jackson and Jeremy Turner, both Warmsworth Environmental Group.
Are there enough activities for children in Doncaster's parks and open spaces?
Francis Jackson: “The simple answer is no. The difficulty is who organises it. You need someone to control it otherwise the kids just run riot. A lot of towns have amateur footballs teams. It is dedicated volunteers again. There are lots of things that can be done, but it comes back to the youth service again, that it doesn't exist any more.”
Clarissa Jackson: “When it gets to, say, 10-plus there is a shortage of activities.”
FJ: “In Askern we have swings and an activity area and that's it . But because of health and safety, it’s got to be controlled.”
CJ: “As a parent, you should be taking your child to the swings.”
FJ: “But there are other parents who couldn't care less as long as the kids are out. That's the problem we have with this group of kids.”
Don Crabtree: “My concern when we see kids in Sandall Park, is that they seem to behave better with their grandparents.”
FJ: “We've applied for funding to put some fishing pegs in at Askern Lake. It doesn't belong to us sowe had to make sure we have long term use.
“I have to ask Doncaster Council to do anything. We have to produce a risk assessment.
“We've got some trees which have boughs laying in the lake that have been like this for nearly seven years.
“My main concern is that kids will climb up the boughs, directly over the lake, and one of these days if someone falls in that will be it. They could drown, We've reported it time and time again. We could do it but have to get permission.”
DC: “I set an angling club up at Sandall Park to police the park. I've got no interest in fishing at all, but the rules of the council were there was no night fishing at any council-owned lake. There is now. That will cut down crime there, if you put night fishing in like we have.
“Our anglers are briefed, and we've given them big torches and radios.
“People who hear radios and see torches don't know if it’s anglers or the police force. It's stopped people breaking into the cafe and poaching and off-road motorbikes. They are our eyes in eyes in the park at night, and it works.”
Andy Rutherford: “Going back to the boughs in the lake, I can only apologise if its not been resolved, however we will instruct our tree team. I will make sure you get some contact and we action some works.
“In terms of the current facilities that are in the park, we're committed to sustaining those facilities and to make sure they're a good standard so kids can enjoy themselves.
“We've heard this morning about various events that have happened music related, fireworks, lights galas. These are valuable resources and we're open to facilitate what we can.
“I think it’s a real shame that there are some excellent facilities out there and in some areas of the borough there isn't a lot that happens there we've got to try to get that changed around so that there are things that local people can enjoy.
“There isn't a huge amount other than sport, the bowling greens and the football, that goes on, but there a lot of people who use these sites.
“It’s heartening and it’s something that we want to do at more parks, work with friends of groups who support each other and get that intelligence about what the current levels are and then look at ways where there are gaps and low usage and what we can do to get more.
“Parks are not just for kids, they are for people of all ages. We want to get elderly people out of their homes, people who are lonely for instance, helping them to make friends and get involved and hopefully make them feel happier with their lives .
“These areas have a big role to play and that can only happen by us having the desire and willingness to sustain these valuable resources and a strategy and clear plan to work towards that goal. We all have a big part to play in that.”
DC: “We've got some youngsters who are absolute stars, we're setting up a junior rangers scheme. They've all got a miniature fluorescent jacket and we've been using them for dishing out bird seed and taking bread off people – it works.”
Are friends groups going to have an increasing role to play?
AR: “Yes. We have four green flag sites in the borough and we have representatives of two of those parks today and that would never have happened if it wasn't for the friends groups or the volunteers.
“We can't speak more highly of what they do. We want to roll that model out elsewhere and to make sure that there are more people who have a stake in the facilities It's all about everyone working together and making sure that there's a good future for these valuable and wonderful sites.”
Tony Sockett: “Winning money is not easy. It's a very competitive world.
“The far end of Bentley Park has the Trans-pennine trail. In terms of riding bikes off the road, we've got a ready made facility. I would love to see, and it'’s a project I'm working on, a situation where you can get bicycles and teach children to ride.
“The park in Bentley has got its own little highways that are not roads, but are asphalted paths. You could then progress onto the Trans-pennine trail. Within 10 minutes, you can be on Bentley community woodland which used to be called the pit tip, and you've got a 7km of bridleways and footpaths.
“You can be on Brodsworth pit tip in 10 minutes, which has a similar number of footpaths. You could get onto the Trans-pennine trail to the east cost or right to the other side of the country, just by using a little bit of imagination.
“I'd love to see all weather table tennis tables in our parks, once they're in they're in.
“A child might have to get a bat and a net but it’s something. What I have noticed when the small children have gone away and the teenagers come into the park at night, they do tend to play on the swings and roundabout but also the zip wire which is extremely popular, so it’s a question of what you can put into parks that's safe to use that.
“You could put adventure playgrounds in like they have in some of our forests but if you do that and you've not got supervision, what's the liability factor? Tennis courts football areas, multi use games areas, they're not big spaces and can be used better than they are.”
Is there anything at Potteric Carr that other parks could learn from?
Andy Dalton: “This is all private land, not public open space as such. There are no public rights of way that go through here any more.
“Obviously, the main issues we face are about developing memberships, getting people and family involved, so it is in parallel to what you're trying to do, within our own park spaces.
“Certainly getting young people interested is the biggest challenge we face, from early years to pre-teenage years it’s fine, but then you get that void in terms of visitors to the site and people drop off in terms of being interested in wildlife..
DC: “There are examples of privately owned parks like Woodfield Park. We helped them set up Friends of Woodfield Park. It’s owned by the NHS but run by a Community Interest Company, a social enterprise, Flourish Enterprises.
“We go there and they have some lovely cafe, some lovely facilities and they're trying to encourage business to work with in the park. Owned by someone else is the way they are managing their green space, which is different to how we're managed.”