An update on the Edinburgh ParkLife project in relation to Leith Links…
Parks are vibrant public spaces that are important for local communities as places to exercise, relax, play and appreciate nature. The ParkLife project, a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and the City of Edinburgh Council, is exploring how technology can help gather more information about how parks are being used and enjoyed – by wildlife and people – to help those who manage and care for them.
The project ran four community meetings across Edinburgh, including one in Leith organised by Leith Links Community Council, 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.
Our Leith workshop took place at the beginning of April, was hosted by the Leith Links Community Council in Leith Community Centre and was attended by fifteen Leithers. We divided the attendees into three groups and seated them around an enormous map of Leith Links. We were also lucky to have Scott Thomson in attendance – Scott is the Park Officer for Leith Links.
We then asked them to quickly list everything happening in the Links and to mark their location with a coloured dot on the map. Green dots represent the most used areas, red dots mark areas of conflict and yellow dots specify areas for potential opportunities. As you can see in the photos, the attendees identified up to twenty areas, with the space around the playground being the most colourful on all three maps.
After this exercise, everyone came together to walk around each table to discuss the outcomes. The sorts of issues raised included dog owners using designated play areas and the football pitches; the lack of seating in the playground; and whether it was fair for military fitness groups to use the Links without contributing towards its upkeep. There were lots of opportunities to improve the park: planting a community garden and the improvement of the allotments; the need for better cycle path connections; the restoration of the bowling greens; and a wish for an ice-cream stand, to name a few.
For our last activity, we asked the attendees to narrow down their thoughts to name ONE opportunity to be created or ONE challenge to be solved. They produced the following list:
1. Using social media to canvass views on how the bowling green can be restored.
2. Improving the infrastructure of the non-sporting spaces e.g. picnics or BBQs.
3. Surveying how many people use the park and what people are doing in different areas.
Understandably, funding was the single most important obstacle mentioned by the attendees. The ParkLife team will be to take this list and see how using technology can help. This technology won’t replace getting out Leith Links and speaking to more people. Amongst other things, it is hoped that new information will provide more evidence to make the case for more funding for Leith Links.
The workshops were our first steps to talk with the local communities around Leith Links and other areas across Edinburgh. They reinforced how vibrant and integral these public spaces are for those who use and live near them. We look forward to working with the communities and seeing how parks across Edinburgh bloom over Spring and Summer.
We would like to thank all the participants who attended our workshops and shared their insights. If you want to find out more about ParkLife then you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website https://www.edinburghlivinglab.org/projects/parklife