11th August 2017 – BY Dale Haslam

Judges have heaped praise on the staff and volunteers who maintain Aberdeen’s parks, while voicing their frustration at the lack of funds available for their upkeep.

Earlier this year, a panel from the environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful inspected Johnston Gardens, Hazlehead Park, Duthie Park and Seaton Park.

The green spaces made such a good impression that each earned a Green Flag Award – putting them among Scotland’s best.

The Evening Express has now seen the full inspection reports for Johnston Gardens, Hazlehead Park and Duthie Park and can reveal what the judges thought of the attractions.

The Seaton Park report has not yet been filed.

The Hazlehead Park report said:

“Judges appreciate the magnitude of raising standards and addressing the issues that maybe had been overlooked in the past.”

“The continuing struggles to source funding to carry out the necessary works, from both within and outwith the council, are seen as a major task.”

“It became apparent during the judging visit that the park is managed by a very small management team.”

“They are to be congratulated on the work, the high standard they have achieved and the processes now in place to maintain high standards.”

The judges also suggested ways to make improvements.

At Hazlehead, they urged staff to continue planting in flower beds; to keep a tally of vandal attacks and incidents of antisocial behaviour and staff rotas to help the team plan future tasks.

They pointed out that one document suggests certain work is being done while other stats say it

“could be done” which, in the judges’ view “gives a sense of a lack of commitment”.

The Friends of Hazlehead volunteer group drew praise.

The judges said:

“A list of achievements or photographs of the work could be added to reflect the valuable efforts.”

The park was seen as welcoming, with excellent signage and well-placed parking bays.

“A wool project carried out by Hazlehead Primary School on the trees brightened up the avenue to the park,” said the report.

The team called Johnston Gardens a “beautiful and magical gem”.

They added: “The excellent relationship between the staff, management, community engagement officer and the recently established friends group has created volunteering opportunities, which encourage local people to participate in the upkeep of the garden and to help maintain it for all to enjoy.

“There is a strong sense that people benefit from the beautiful surroundings and the opportunity to be at peace and reflect in such a tranquil spot.”

The judges recommended staff should repaint the toilets, install new notice boards, introduce measures to tackle antisocial behaviour and install closed rubbish bins to deter gulls.

Of Duthie Park, the judges suggested the city council can do more to promote it.

“There is some good information on the city council website but it does not necessarily extol the virtues of the park in full,” the report said.

It added that, with the council’s help, the Friends of Duthie Park group had transformed the park.

The report said:

“The total number of visitors counted in 2016 was 1,135,126 – a testament to its ongoing popularity as an accessible, quality green space.”

“It would appear the park is in good hands and the judges hope the interaction with groups will continue to maintain, and indeed add to, the current level of success.”

Councillor Brett Hunt, vice convener on the city council’s communities, housing and infrastructure committee, said:

“It is great that staff members and friends group volunteers have been given the praise they deserve in these reports.”

“The judges make a good point that more money would be useful, but I think they understand that there is only a limited amount to go around.”

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