World Urban Parks media release, 9 June 2015

World Urban Parks Launched in PortugalWELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND 9 JUNE 2015: World Urban Parks is the new representative body for the international urban parks, open space and recreation sector. Launched over the last six weeks in the USA, Japan, and at its first World Urban Parks Congress in Ponte de Lima Portugal 26-31 May, World Urban Parks will champion world park and recreation outcomes for city livability, place-making, conservation and access.

New World Urban Parks Chair Gil Penalosa, from Canada, said: “It is an understatement to say that it is an exciting time to be working on urban parks at a global scale. To be part of a team of city park leaders supporting best practices in urban park, open space, and recreation development brings together my two greatest passions: parks and cities.”

“We have a lot of work to do. The world urban population will double from 3.5 billion to over 7.0 billion in the next 35 years. The population is expected to level off by 2050, so the cities we build today will be where billions of people will live for many hundreds of years. This represents a once in a lifetime opportunity to support the development of parks and open spaces as critical elements in creating healthy, sustainable, and inclusive cities.”

“In addition to the urgency that accompanies this unprecedented growth in urban areas, we also know that parks and open spaces are not prioritized as they should be. Budgets for parks which were already insufficient, are getting cut in most cities around the world, and parks and open space development has not kept pace with residential and commercial development in countless cities.”

We have a tremendous responsibility to advocate and advance knowledge on parks on a global scale. We must build broad alliances with public, private, and non-governmental organizations to help position parks and open spaces as the essential building blocks of good city building they are. We need to move the conversation forward. We know parks and open spaces provide many benefits, they contribute to people’s mental and physical health, to the environment, economic development, and to social inclusion. The benefits far outweigh the costs, yet we seem to still have to make the case for parks.”  

 World Urban Parks Vice Chair Neil McCarthy, from Australia, noted: “For the first time in history, more than half of the world’s population lives in urban areas, and cities worldwide are coping with issues including rapid urban migration, the effects of climate change, declining infrastructure, and competing government priorities.”

Vice Chair and former President of the International Federation of Parks and Recreation Administration (Ifpra), Emanuel Trueb, from Switzerland, said “the new organization is a collaborative evolution of the former International Federation of Parks and Recreation Administration and the International Urban Parks and Green Space Alliance. Following more than two years of planning by both international organisations, World Urban Parks extends the reach and impact that Ifpra has achieved since its founding in London in 1957”.

Headquartered in Wellington, New Zealand, the membership organization serves individuals, organizations and cities inclusive of agencies, businesses and community organisations in more than 40 countries. Under the new model, World Urban Parks unites city park leaders on a global scale, and serves as a clearinghouse for sharing relevant data and best practices from urban parks around the world.  

Kenzo Oguchi, Managing Director of the Parks and Recreation Foundation, Japan, a member organisation of World Urban Parks noted: “Developed countries with reduced budgets, developing countries with high population growth - all need information, best practice, and benchmarking to resolve these common concerns and challenges. We want to push forward with the good parks development learned from a variety of efforts from around the world.

In addition to bringing more than 45 presenters together from a diversity of countries the First World Urban Parks Congress saw the initiation of the Ponte de Lima Declaration to set world standards for urban parks, and presentation of the first of a series of awards recognizing global contributions in the sector.

World Urban Parks was also highlighted in Tokyo at the International Symposium 2015 ‘The Future of Park Management’ on 18 May, and in San Francisco at the ‘Greater and Greener’ International Forum on 15 April 2015.

Those quoted from World Urban Parks were:

•    Mr Gil Penalosa, Chair of the Board of Directors; Founder 8-80 Cities, Canada
•    Mr Neil McCarthy, Vice Chair; CEO North East Catchment Management Authority, Australia
•    Emanuel Trueb, Vice Chair; Head Parks and Gardens city of Basel, Switzerland
•    Mr Kenzo Oguchi, Director; Managing Director Park and Recreation Foundation

About World Urban Parks:
World Urban Parks is the international representative body for the urban parks, open space and recreation sector. It serves as the “go to” organization for international advice and support on urban park, open space and recreation issues around the globe, leveraging the experience of seasoned national associations and practitioners with opportunities to help build worldwide park leadership and bring about significant improvements in cities where rapid urbanization is occurring.