Can a City become a National Park?
Attention please, citizens of the future, we are now approaching the Melbourne National Park City. If you look out your window to your left you will see the rich grasslands and wild walking trails of Royal Park, we are now heading east to the Merri Creek region, perfect for cycling, running or a picnic, or it can be the starting point of a larger hike to the Yarra estuary and the city parklands if you are visiting for a little longer. Get your cameras ready and keep an eye out for sulphur-crested cockatoos, rosellas and white-faced herons as we travel through the National Park…
Hold on a minute. Can an urban environment become a National Park? Traditionally, National Park status is reserved for largely undeveloped natural areas that are distinctly separate from the places we live in. But with an abundance of recreation areas and green space, and the increasing improvement of urban habitat, cities offer a range of protected natural areas for the enjoyment of the general public and the preservation of wildlife – gaining all of the credentials of a National Park with the added advantage of being right on the doorstep of vast potential user groups. So why not?
Indeed, London may become the first National Park City in the world. The Greater London National Park City initiative [link: http://www.nationalparkcity.london/ ] is campaigning for London to be given the recognition and the strategic management that comes with National Park status – with the intention of driving better connections between people and nature.
The campaign makes the point that a staggering 47% of the Greater London area is physically green – made up of a rich tapestry of parks, gardens, rivers, allotments, woodlands and canals. London arguably contains a very diverse and potentially interesting range of habitats and natural scenery that makes it comparable to other National Parks in the UK. So if these green assets were given the focus and investment of a National Park, could their value be vastly improved? Furthermore, could a coordinated focus on visitor experience re-imagine London as a destination for locals and tourists alike – a place to visit not just for its iconic built environment but for its complex and varied natural landscape?