Love Springwater Park – Action Plan

Aim: To create a themed action plan for the Love Springwater Park community group. This would need to contain a range of project ideas which can be implemented by the group in the short, long and medium term and focussed upon maintaining and improving Springwater Park for the benefit of all.

Date: February 2021.

Client: Love Springwater Park Community Group (I am a member of this group)

Principles: Mollison and Slay

Framework: GOBREDIM

Tools: Needs / Expectations Analysis, Ethics Analysis, PASTE, Principles Analysis, Guilds Analysis, Holistic Decision Making, Client Interview, Shared Ideas Form, Action Plan, What If…? Activity, Maintenance Plan.

How does the design reflect the Permaculture Ethics?

People CareHow can local community be involved in decision making around a public greenspace?

How can a local greenspace be preserved as a peaceful and beautiful place for the community to enjoy?
Earth CareHow can we work to maintain and improve the nature and biodiversity on the site?

How can we best protect this delicate urban / wild / natural space?
Fair ShareHow can the park become more accessible whilst also protecting nature?

How can nature and outdoor space contribute to wider social change?

How does the design meet my personal learning objectives?

Permaculture design as underlying foundation to the work that I do.– Using Permaculture methods to design a project that has been commissioned within a real world context.

– Application of Permaculture design within a real context related to my professional practice particularly in terms of community engagement.

– Structured application within the context and timeline of a wider project.
Build links to the Permaculture community.– Sharing process and documentation via social media and design group.
Develop learning within the structure of the diploma.– Exploring ways to develop a design as part of a collaborative process.

Resources / Support

  • Various websites detailing similar projects
  • “From What Is To What If” by Rob Hopkins
  • Diploma Guild
  • Design Forum
  • Love Springwater Park Volunteers
  • Countryside Officer – Bury Council
  • Knowledge Base – Permaculture Association
  • I-Naturalist
  • Wordsift

Context

Love Springwater Park is a community group I am involved with, which was founded in September 2017. This is the second design that I have done for the group as part of my diploma.

We are a group made up of people from Whitefield in Greater Manchester who are dedicated to maintaining and improving Springwater Park for the benefit of local communities and the environment. The park is around 120 acres of green space located at the convergence of the River Irwell and River Roch in Bury. It was formerly an industrial site housing three factories, but now belongs to Bury Council and comprises of riverside meadow / floodplain surrounded by lodges and woodland. Part of the site was also historically a municipal tip.

The meadow area of the park is a natural floodplain and it suffered serious flooding during the storms in December 2015, which also flooded many homes in neighbouring communities. Since then the riverbank, which had become very steeply carved as result of high levels of rainfall, has become seriously eroded and a large area of the riverside meadow has been lost. In 2018 the group were informed that the park may become part of a borough wide flood-remediation scheme being developed by the Environment Agency. In 2019 this work was confirmed and provisional plans were drawn up with work due to start in Spring 2020. Unfortunately due to the pandemic the work was unable to start but in January 2021 the project finally began, with view to it being completed in April.

The prospect of this large project taking place meant that much of our work as a volunteer group had to be put on hold, but it starting meant that there was finally light at the end of the tunnel and that it was possible for us to start coming up with longer term plans again for our group and our park.

This design focuses upon the collaborative creation of an Action Plan for the group moving beyond the completion of the Environment Agency works. It was developed in my capacity as member of the group, and used GOBREDIM as a framework.

Goal

The aim of the design was to create project action plan for the Love Springwater Park community group. This will contain a range of project ideas which can be implemented by the group in the short, long and medium term and which focus upon maintaining and improving Springwater Park for the benefit of all.

This action plan would be created through a planning meeting which would take place on Zoom and which would be open to anybody who is actively involved in our group.

To think about the goal further I created a NEEDS AND EXPECTATIONS analysis thinking about what the action plan needed to do and what we might expect the plan to be.

NeedsExpectations
To create themes which help the group focus on the direction that we would like to take.

To create a list of projects for the group.

To set down some workable ideas for the group.

To create some bigger ideas.

To think about a mixture of short, long and medium term plans.

To agree volunteers to take forward each theme, and set some tasks and dates for them to work towards.

To reflect multiple voices and ideas
We will come up with some ideas that we can get going with!

We will be able to share our own ideas.

Our plan will improve the park.

Our plan will be a fun thing to be involved with.

Some of our ideas will be able to happen right away.

A number of comments were also made about the meeting by group members which are noted below and which were useful pointers in the design:

“Its going to be a difficult meeting to organise efficiently on zoom; I can foresee a lot of sidetracks and folks just enjoying the pleasure of chatting.”

“I think the best outcome from the meeting would be four or five broad directions that members want the Park to take, rather than specific projects, though we’d discuss projects in the context of the directions. I think we are missing a plan for the future at present.”

“We will need some form of vote so that all get their views noted.”

Finally I used the Permaculture Ethics to further focus thinking around the goal for the design.

Boundaries and Resources

I began thinking about this by creating a PASTE ANALYSIS for the site. I drew up initial analysis and then it was shared with the rest of the group so that they could make additions.

Alongside this I checked entries on the I-Naturalist entry for the park which incredibly noted that 146 different species had been logged / observed within the park. You can explore observations for the park here. And a screenshot of the site is included below.

Finally I used the PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLES to explore the possible BOUNDARIES AND RESOURCES in relation to the design.

BOUNDARIESRESOURCES
Relative location– Site places limitations upon what can go where and upon what events are possible.

– How may neighbours feel about certain projects / events?
– The generally park has supportive and enthusiastic neighbours and is part of a great community.

– It is not a pristine site which means we can be quite creative about the plans that we make.
Each element performs many functions– It would be a challenge to give function to some of the existing elements.

– How can the group balance conflicting needs / uses / aspirations for the park?
– Diverse uses of the park means many elements are already multi-functional.

– Our volunteer group brings huge diversity of skill and knowledge.
Each function is supported by many elements– The park is used in many different ways and it would be unrealistic to think that all uses could be supported in the same way.

– Currently some functions are quite anti-social – how can we ensure that these are supported by less elements?
– There are already many fuctions which are well supported within the park.

– The elements within the park could also potentially easily support many of the other projects that we may want to develop.
Efficient energy planning– As a volunteer group there is a limit to the time and energy that we are able to commit.

– The park is big with lots of potential – it would take huge amounts of time and energy to do everything that we would like to do!
– There is alot of energy and enthusiasm within our group – better planning will help us to make the best use of this that we can.

– Lots of other people are very enthusiastic about the park – how can we encourage them to become more involved?
Using biological resources– The park is a big space and includes a wide range of environments – there is a limit to the impact that a volunteer group can have within space of this size.

– There are serious infestations of Himalayan Balsam, Japanese Knotweed and Giant Hogweed.

– Areas of the land are still polluted as a result of historical uses.

– Two rivers flow through the site and it is a floodplain.
– The site is diverse and interesting in terms of habitat and nature – these aspects bring great interest and potential.

– There are lots of natural resources on site which can be utilised for use within projects that the volunteer group would like to develop.
Cycling of energy– How is it best to maintain the interest of volunteers and to encourage new volunteers to get involved?

– Some people are not positive about the improvements that the volunteers make to the park and this negativity can be challenging.
– The volunteers are enthusiastic and passionate about the park – how can we best plan so that we harness that energy?

– How can exisitng enthusiasm be used to drive more ambitious plans and projects?
Small scale intensive systems– The park is big and some aspects are managed with larger scale focus by the landowner (Bury Council)

– Some of the more significant challenges on site such as giant hogweed are a challenge to tackle in a small scale way.
– It works well for the group to tackle things in smaller steps – espescially for bigger challenges like invasive plants.

– Small scale developments are easier for the group to manage and can have a real impact upon how people feel about the park.
Accelerating succession and evolution– How can we best continue to recruit new volunteers to get involved? – The core group is a great group but it would be nice if more people got involved.

– How to develop the group beyond day to day maintenance to think about the bigger picture and things that they would REALLY like to see in the park.
– The group has the energy and enthusiasm to create a programme of work that will grow and develop as the park itself develops.

– The group is part of the local community and thus committed to developing a plan of works that will develop and grow in the long term as part of a wider context.
Diversity, including guilds– How to encourage more people to get involved so that a wider diversity of park users is represented in the volunteer group.

– Hard to create a plan which reflects the diversity of park users – lots of people use the park in different ways.
– The group has a wide range of skills and interests which really adds to what projects are possible.

– The group is open and welcoming and committed to being accessible to all.
Edge effects– Maintaining momentum of large projects like woodland management or invasive plant removal can make it hard to think about more marginal aspects / possibilities.– The group has wide interests which stretch in many different directions – the plan will help to ensure that more unusual or niche interests are better reflected.

Evaluation

Most of this element of the design was undertaken collaboratively by members of the group. The majority of thinking took place within a structured group meeting which happened on Zoom, with research and idea gathering done prior to this.

Initially a date was agreed for the meeting and participants were invited to take part in SHARED IDEAS GATHERING:

  1. Share ideas of projects that they found inspiring which may be relevant to our park.
  2. Share ideas that they would like to discuss at the meeting.

All of this was collated and shared on a webpage which participants could freely access. This page can be explored here. In answer to the second question people largely shared ideas of projects that they would like to see develop in the park. These are listed on the previoulsy mentioned webpage and loosely catergorised into four groups:

  • Biodiveristy.
  • People and Community.
  • Projects.
  • Partners / Supporters.

Any other feedback or comments that were made were also shared on the webpage.

The week prior to our meeting a simple CLIENT SURVEY was sent out to participants asking them to respond to three questions as detailed by Rob Hopkins in his brilliant book “From What Is to What If.” The questions were orignated by artist and community activist Gabriella Gomez-Mont who used a similar format in a community project she delivered in Mexico City.

The questions were:

  1. What three words come to mind when you think about Springwater Park?
  2. What three things do you value most?
  3. How do you imagine the future of the park?

The answers to these questions were shared as a starting point in our meeting and are shared below.

Here are the words that came to mind when people thought about the park. The larger the word the more frequently it was mentioned.

These are the words the represent the three things that people value most in the park:

And these are the things that people mentioned when they thought about their vision for the park in the future:

Finally the full answers to all the third question can be explored in the gallery below:

The next activity that we did together was to answer the question “WHAT IF…” to think about things that we would love to see happen in our park in the future. The responses to this activity are detailed below.

Decisions

We worked in small groups to look at thie different activities and ideas that had been shared so far, and to see if they could be gathered together into any obvious themes. The idea was that these themes may help guide the work themes that we would like to pursue as a group going forward. The activity was very similar to a GUILDS ANALYSIS but took a more general thematic approach. These discussions are summarised below:

This activity was followed by a GROUP DISCUSSION to focus thinking where we agreed the following as a group:

  • Nature should be the overarching focus for everything that we do.
  • The work themes will be: Maintenance and Work Parties, People and Community, Nature and Biodiversity, Projects, Partners.
  • We would like the park to become a local nature reserve so the work that we do will work towards fulfilling the criteria to do that.
  • How will our work look if for each project or activity we ask : how does this benefit and support nature in the park?

Implementation

I used Simple HOLISTIC DECISION MAKING TOOLS to outline how the themes that had been indentified by the group were reflected by the wider identity of the group – how the themes reflect the spirit and sense of the things that we want to achieve within the park.

A simple ACTION PLAN was created to outline the way that the themes that we had created would be used by the group:

  • A further meeting was agreed to follow up the initial meeting.
  • At the meeting the group will agree up to three projects within each theme.
  • At the meeting the group will also try to agree a lead / leads for each of the themes.
  • This will be used to create a more detailed work plan / action plan for the group’s work in the park.
  • Once the workplan is agreed the regular meetings that the group have every month will be used to check in and see what progress is being made.

Maintenance

The plan that has been created will be maintained by the group in a number of ways:

  • The themes will form the basis of our regular planning meetings which take place each month. This will mean that we keep revisiting them which will help ensure that they remain active and relevant.
  • The meetings will allow us to observe if the themes are still relevant and if they still reflect the structure and aspirations of our group.
  • If the themes are no longer relevant as our group grows and develops we will revisit our thinking process to explore where gaps lie and therefore what needs to be added and taken away.