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Bringing Poole Park to Life

08 January 2021

Poole Park v2

Open spaces are important to local communities and the pandemic has highlighted the need for better green spaces now more than ever.

 We have caught up with Toni Powell, Community Engagement Officer at Poole Council to hear more about her role and  the council ambitions to better our wider local Poole neighbourhood.

Can you tell us a bit more about your role at Poole Council?

My role supports community engagement activities within the Poole Park Life project, which is a £3.5m improvement venture including a £2.7m grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund. It is a four-year delivery project and is now in its last year. I lead on the Activity Plan which includes co-ordinating garden volunteers, delivering events and activities, supporting volunteer heritage research and working with a whole range of stakeholders including schools, libraries, local wildlife organisations and more.

How important is this transformation project for Poole?

Parks and open spaces are vital for people’s health and well-being as they provide opportunities for relaxation, open views, fresh air, exercise, access to nature and space to socialise with family and friends. The evidence for this could not have been more noticeable throughout the pandemic, when parks and open spaces were heavily used for daily walks, exercise, a safer space to meet people outside and a chance for visitors to clear their head during stressful times.

For Poole Park many park visitors describe their regular trips to the park as a ‘life saver’ during lockdowns. In fact, well over 100 years ago, a large number of parks were specifically created to help support people through past pandemics such as cholera.

 The quality of an open space is also important and the maintenance team in Poole Park work hard to ensure the park looks its best. Garden volunteering enables local residents to also contribute to improving the park, as well as allowing people of different ages, backgrounds and skills to get together and socialise in an outdoor setting. For me personally, supporting the volunteer programme has given me a much-needed boost throughout this year.

 How has the pandemic affected the project?

The pandemic has impacted hugely in many ways. For parks, during the first lockdown the only maintenance that could take place was grass cutting and litter collection. This meant that there was much work to catch up on as restrictions eased.

 For the Poole Park Life project,  the pandemic led to delays in improvement works and sadly has greatly impacted on events and activities we were able to offer local communities throughout 2020. As a team we very much look forward being able to deliver celebration days, family fun days, uninterrupted volunteering, walks and talks and other group activities once again.

How can others get involved and help support your work in the community?

At the moment garden volunteering has been put on hold, however people can still get in touch to find out more information for when it starts up again. Going forward Poole Park needs volunteers to help co-ordinate events, activities and communications, especially as the Poole Park Life project is coming to an end. This can include running small fundraising events to support park improvements, writing newsletters, managing the Poole Park website, supporting the Information Kiosk and delivery of heritage tours. There are lots of exciting opportunities for the future to get involved with so for more information please email me on: [email protected]

 What do you enjoy the most about your role?

I love the combination of working with the local community, in a beautiful outdoor setting. I feel very fortunate to have met so many lovely people and to work in Poole Park! I also really enjoy organising Family Fun Day’s when volunteers, park stakeholders, health and well-being groups, sports clubs, artists, wildlife groups and families get together on a Summers day to celebrate all that the park has to offer. I hope that we can deliver a speculator Fun Day to celebrate the end of the Poole Park Life project this year.

 What are some of the things you enjoy the most about living and working in Poole?

As a town Poole has a lot to offer in terms of a whole range of opens spaces, including parks, nature reserves, historic quayside, and beaches. I enjoy jogging (when fitness allows!) and feel very fortunate to have such amazing views whilst exercising!

 Finally, do you have any big plans for next year?

2021 will be the last year of the Poole Park Life project when we will be undertaking the following:

  • Installing two new playgrounds
  • Delivery of a whole package of interpretation installations and activities
  • Creation of a new Victorian Collectors Garden
  • Celebration events, including a Family Fun Day
  • A potential Arts and Heritage based event, working with local artists
  • Installation of new outdoor fitness equipment including personal training sessions

 For more information on all of the above, you can visit Poole Park Life’s webpage: https://pooleprojects.net/pooleparklife/    

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