A community-led future for Eastville Park

September 03 2021
A community-led future for Eastville Park

News from the Friends of Eastville Park

WHAT is a park? For many it is simply a green space and trees, providing an escape from the noise, pollution, and claustrophobia of city life.

There are those that struggle to access the park through physical limitations and availability of necessary facilities; paths, benches, accessible toilets, baby change facilities, and hot drinks can make green spaces available to all throughout the year and make visits worthwhile, yet all these things have associated maintenance costs that the city council have struggled to meet.

The question has become how to keep our green spaces free to access while also generating an income to pay for the facilities we need.

Friends of Eastville park have always believed that community is the answer. We visit parks for good well-being, a reconnection to nature and a reconnection to our community, a chance to play, meet our neighbours and friends to relieve social isolation.

In the past we may have stopped in the streets while children played and spoken with our neighbours, but these spaces have become dominated by parked cars and speeding drivers: the park is our refuge now.

Since a failed 2003 Heritage lottery bid, Eastville Park has suffered chronic underfunding, so our mission as a group has been to find a way out of the deficit without privatisation, advertising or inappropriate development.

Our 2018 vision of a community well-being hub has brought volunteers and funds through grants and social events such as the Pop Up café, Santa’s Grotto, play days, sports groups and film club.

We have now successfully achieved a three-year licence to run the hub.

It’s taken a lot of work and volunteer hours to get to this point, building the right relationship with the council and park users, but we are ready to accelerate forward.

During the winter months the Nissen Hut lies mostly cold and underused. We are arranging to insulate it, replace windows and doors, and upgrade electrics and the kitchen so we can offer year-round facilities to everyone looking for a warm functional building.

The quirky ‘step back in time’ character of the park buildings is a great part of their appeal: the hut is one of the last of its kind, while the beautiful art deco pavilion is patiently awaiting the TLC it deserves.

We are currently looking at ideas for sympathetic restoration of the pavilion to bring it back to life as a vibrant community asset for the Hub and for the Eastville Park bowling club, which has risen from the ashes after years of being under threat of closure. 

So what’s next? The Friends of Eastville Park are becoming an official charity and hosting more activities at the Nissen hut and surrounding spaces. We’ve worked hard with the help of our amazing group of local volunteers and had great support from GoodGym, Young Rangers and Parkwork to create a usable events ground opposite the Nissen hut for outdoor activities. We’re keen to make this space accessible and working, just as we have with the Nissen hut.

To find out how you can run your well-being activity at Eastville Community Hub, contact friendsofeastvillepark@gmail.com.

Friends of Eastville Park