by Michaela Hubmann, ParkLife user researcher
In April, the ParkLife team ran four community meetings involving groups associated with four parks across Edinburgh: Inverleith Park, the Meadows and Bruntsfield Links, Saughton Gardens and Park, and Leith Links. These workshops were organised to find out what members of the community want to see improved in their park, what the main challenges are, and which areas are the most/least used in their park. Taking this forward, we then asked them to think about the role that technology might play in all these issues. Here we will summarise the outcomes of the workshop we did focusing on Saughton Gardens and Park.
Parks are not just vibrant spaces they are incredibly diverse. A quick scan of our enormous maps will show you just how different Saughton Park is to Leith Links. In addition to these physical differences there are also financial ones. Saughton Park is near the end of a £4 million project to restore and enhance the park in many ways. This restoration will return the park to its status as a destination park, where people will travel far to enjoy its new range of gardens, community venue and café and other facilities.
We were overwhelmed by the enormous turnout four our Saughton Park workshop - we had a whopping 35 participants! The majority of them were members of Friends of Saughton Park, who were meeting for the first time after a period of dormancy and very generous with their time. We were lucky enough to be able to host the workshop in the beautiful winter garden, which has been closed for restoration but is due to be re-opened later this year. The participants were divided into five groups of seven.
We had planned to run the same exercises as we did in Leith but it soon became clear that this would not work, as the City of Edinburgh council had already conducted its own consultation and engagement process, as part of the restoration project. Responding to participant’s feedback, we tried to structure this workshop slightly differently. Although we introduced the first two activities, it was rather a ‘what else do you want’ approach. Indeed, this led to a pretty imaginative outcome and the maps were full of dots and sticky-notes.
The outcome of this exercise regarding narrowing down their thoughts to name ONE opportunity to be created or ONE challenge to be solved was quite different to the Leith Links group, which also reflects the different park and community dynamics:
Better coordination of park information and stakeholders were mentioned as the greatest obstacles to achieve these three main objectives. The challenge for the ParkLife team is to adapt to and complement the impressive work already being done in Saughton Park. One idea we are exploring is the creation of a noticeboard that people can connect to whilst in parks on their smartphones. The noticeboard will be a one-stop-shop where users can access a range of information about their park.
The workshops were our first steps to engage with Leith Links and Saughton Park. However, they have reinforced how vibrant and integral these public spaces are for the local communities who use and live near them. We look forward to reporting back to these groups and seeing how these parks thrive with the coming of Spring and Summer.