This regular item shares a little of the value of Yardstick each month from the 2013 data for Parkcheck members in Europe, North America, Africa and Australasia. While Yardstick provides data on a number of common benchmarks for all countries, users within a country or region can also agree to establish additional benchmarks particular to them.

Two examples relating to the number of parks staff and salaries paid in New Zealand are provided here as an example of what Yardstick users can request.

a) Staff resources
The median number of full time equivalent staff for New Zealand parks departments serving city populations over 50,000 is 25. A median of five staff serve city populations under 50,000. In New Zealand, parks maintenance is outsourced by 43 per cent of organisations. Twenty-four per cent maintain parks with their own staff and 33 percent use a mix of internal staff and outsourcing to contractors.

b) Staff salaries
The following table shows the salaries for different parks staff in New Zealand in NZD. A New Zealand Dollar is worth 0.86 USD or 0.63 Euro. Note: most New Zealand parks departments are led by a manager reporting to a council executive.

Gardeners and park managers, both Nordic and international, will soon be heading to Malmö, Sweden – the City of Parks – for the Nordic Parks Conference, held from 20-22 August.

The congress theme - green city - is an important one, as increasing urbanisation continues to impact on sustainable cities. City residents’ quality of life is crucial if a city is to be designated as successful and prosperous.

The congress will feature leading international and Nordic experts, who will present on how they look at the challenges, threats and opportunities which will face our cities outdoor environments. There will also be local study tours.

In conjunction with the conference, Ifpra will host the World Commissioners and Executive meetings, Yardstick Scandinavian User Group Meeting, Ifpra Academy Workshop and a pre-conference tour in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Further information, including the congress brochure, details of Ifpra events and a link to register online is available in the Ifpra Congresses & Events section of our website.

Visit the Ifpra Congresses & Events section of our website>>

Congratulations to the following people who received their Certified International Park Professional certificates at the Malaysia Urban Green Space and Ifpra Asia Pacific Conference 2014 held in Penang, Malaysia, last week: Chris Rutherford, Nic Crous, Yoritaka Tashiro, Kenzo Oguchi and Digby Whyte.

Congratulations also to the following awardees who were not in attendance at the conference: Christy Boylan, Steve Wolter, Neil McCarthy, Dr. Richard Hendrick and Russel Wedge.

For more information about the Certified International Park Professional certification or the Ifpra Academy, visit www.ifpra-academy.org.

I am writing this from Penang, Malaysia, where I have been attending the Urban Greenspace and Ifpra Asia Pacific Conference. Our hosts, the Forest Research Institute of Malaysia and Municipal Council of Penang have excelled themselves by putting on a great mix of presentations, park visits and hospitality. Our tour busses even enjoyed police escorts to help us through Penang’s bustling traffic.

We have just come off the stage at the gala dinner, where there had been traditional Malay, Chinese and Indian dancers, and where we announced the first Ifpra Academy Certified International Parks Professionals. Five successful applicants also attended the conference.

On the first day of the conference John Senior presented the main keynote address which was on Healthy Parks Healthy People; a number of other Ifpra members also gave presentations. That afternoon we visited the multi-activity Penang Municipal Park, and the Botanic Gardens that is under rejuvenation. Both parks are well-used.

I was excited to attend the launch of MyParks, the new Professional Park and Recreation Association for Malaysia that has been led, in part, by Dato Ismail Ngah. One of the roles of Ifpra as an umbrella organisation is to advocate and support national professional associations and I hope the formation of MyParks will inspire other nations to follow suit. One encouraging example is in Brazil, where there is a small band of professionals working to create the first Brazilian association.

Alain de Botton, author of The Architecture of Happiness, explains the vital role played by the urban park: “In the midst of a busy city, a park becomes quite literally an oasis and a tree can bring about an epiphany no less intense than a beautiful painting”.

We want you to tell us which park – ideally an urban park or open space - you rate highest. Tell us briefly why this particular park wins your seal of approval. This may be a family favourite, a world design award-winner, or notable for some other reason. If you have a photo of the park, all the better! In next month’s newsletter we’ll see what our e-mail bag brings and craft a story from its contents.

Send your contribution by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

And just to get you thinking, here’s a Project for Public Spaces list of ‘The World’s Best and Worst Parks’ from 10 years ago.

By Digby Whyte, Ifpra CEO

Part of gaining an understanding of the place of Sokolniki Park among Moscow’s large metropolitan parks included visiting Gorky and Vdnh parks. Although under separate departments both parks have enjoyed recent capital renewal and restoration.

Gorky Park, Moscow’s oldest and perhaps most famous park, on the banks of the Moskva River, was the first of the new Mosgorpark (Moscow Department of Parks and Recreation) major parks to undergo an international competition for its development. The winning UK firm recommended restoring the park to its pre-soviet splendour and the renewal program has been in full swing for two years with some contemporary uses.

Like Sokolniki Park, but on a smaller scale, Gorky Park is divided into concentrated formal recreation areas and more natural woodland. The parks were recently opened to the public 24 hours a day and without charge, and pulse with concentrated use, particularly on weekends.

By Digby Whyte, Ifpra CEO

I’m writing this contribution in Moscow’s largest and most-visited metropolitan park, which is in the heart of the city. Sokolniki Park, at 515 ha, is Moscow’s larger answer to New York’s Central Park. For 200 years the park has been a favourite of Muscovites to enjoy nature, recreation, sport, and cultural activity.

However the Ministry of Culture and Mosgorpark (Moscow’s parks department) are on a park renaissance roll.The recently launched a major international competition to determine the best concept for the comprehensive redevelopment of the park, and have engaged the public, experts, and an international jury to choose the winning entry from 79 applicants - of which, by far the most were from the Netherlands.

As one of those jurors, I am pleased to represent Ifpra and offer our organisation’s expertise in parks, recreation and urban green space. The jury returns in September with final recommendations for what will become a $10m per year redevelopment program. Those interested in following its progress can do so at www.conceptsokolniki.com.

Renowned environmentalist Dr Jane Goodall launched the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's World Parks Congress’ Education Programme in Australia on June 11.The Congress is held just once a decade and is often referred to as ‘the Environmental Olympics’.

The Congress takes place this year in Australia, at Sydney Olympic Park from 12 – 19 November.

Ifpra Chief Executive Digby Whyte and Australia Ifpra and Congress member John Senior will be involved in several sessions. Together with Ifpra president Elect Neil McCarthy they will also participate in side meetings with Parks Forum, New Zealand Recreation Association, and Parks and Leisure Australia during the event.

The Congress is a global event that attracts nature’s ‘A-Listers’ – from environmentalists and scientists to economists and politicians - who come to debate options for a sustainable future for the Earth. The Education Programme will ensure representatives of the next generation also get a voice there.

URBANBEES is planning meetings in 20 European cities for city park managers to raise awareness of the critical biodiversity value of wild bees and the need to create good conditions to host wild bees.

URBANBEES is a five-year project that has been established by the LIFE+ Biodiversity programme, the European Union’s funding body for environmental initiatives.

The URBANBEES project team wants to hear from Ifpra urban manager members keen to assist in organising the meetings, which aim to explain how all cities can easily improve wild bee conservation and become pollinator-friendly with very simple actions.

The group would like to further educate urban park managers and to raise general public awareness of the importance of wild bee conservation.

The decline of Europe’s 2,500 species of bees is well-established. The pollination service the bees provide is essential for nearly 80 per cent of the wild flora and 70 per cent of crops grown in Europe; for 2005 alone, the economic impact is estimated at €14.2 billion for the 28-member European Union.

Go to www.urbanbees.eu to find out more.

Notice of Meetings

This message is to provide formal notice of the following meetings:

  • Ifpra World Commission
  • Ifpra World General Assembly
  • Ifpra Asia Pacific Region Meeting (combined Commission, General Assembly, Executive)
  • Ifpra World Executive

These meetings will be held on Monday 23 June 2014 in association with the Malaysia Urban Green Space and Ifpra Asia Pacific Conference 2014. Ifpra's meetings will be hosted in the Hibiscus Room, Bayview Beach Resort, Batu Feringghi, Penang, Malaysia.

It’s good to see the World Urban Parks Organisation Task Force testing the fundamental premise for a new world urban parks organisation. The group is looking into the viability of the new organisation, what its scope would be (quite possibly all things ‘recreation’ and ‘open space’ within an urban context), and what organisations and individuals want from a global organisation of this kind.

These are the kind of questions that will be put to a growing advisory or reference group of key cities, organisations and respected individuals over coming months as the Task Force explores the value of an inclusive new-model world urban parks organisation.

I am grateful for those volunteering their time on the Task Force. Thank you also to our hard working executive and commissioners, whether they are organising our conferences, the Ifpra Academy, committees, or engaging associations and professionals to become part of our international and regional revitalisation. I offer a warm welcome to new commissioners Anne Charlton for Canada, Kevin Halpenny for Ireland, and Li Xiong for China.

By Chris Rutherford

How satisfied are your park users? How do you know? From July through the summer months a number of Ifpra Europe members are going to be participating in the Yardstick Parks User Survey. If your organisation would like to measure its levels of service and benchmark the results with other organisations in Europe, Australia and New Zealand consider joining the project.

Europe members to date include:

  • Aalborg - Denmark
  • Copenhagen – Denmark
  • Stavanger – Norway
  • Vantaa - Finland

Ifpra will publish a number of the outcomes in future newsletters.

To find out more visit www.yardstickglobal.org.

This regular item shares a little of the value of Yardstick each month from the 2013 data for Parkcheck members in Europe, North America, Africa and Australasia. This month’s benchmark looks at the provision of street trees per 1,000 residents.

Several national associations are showing strong interest in the work of the new Ifpra Academy, says the Academy’s Deputy Chair, Torgeir Soerensen.

“We are still just at the beginning and have yet to roll out our accreditation programmes in full, so we are pleased with this early interest,” says Mr Soerensen, a former World President of Ifpra.

It is less than a year since a formal agreement was reached between Ifpra and the Eppley Institute to establish the Academy and a certification system for Certified Parks Professional (CPP) and Certified International Parks Professional (CIPP) accreditation.

The Academy’s primary focus is to unite national certification systems by providing the first international competency-based certification programmes for people working in the parks and recreation industry. It will also provide certifications for countries without a current national certifying body.

By Mark Camley, Chair of The Parks Alliance UK

As park enthusiasts we inevitably believe in the intrinsic value of parks. Some, I expect, would even subscribe to "parks for parks' sake". So it comes as a shock when others don't "get it" and don’t automatically agree with our view of the world. However, we should all be clear that "they" don't always get it. In response to a recent story in the online Guardian newspaper relating to a lack of housing in the UK, one commentator has posted "... first of all we must infill all of London's parks and open spaces with affordable homes". I thought at first that this was some form of joke but it was "liked" by 153 people the last time I checked.

With two young girls most of my cultural references these days are aimed at the under 5s. They have recently been learning the rhyme – Two fat sausages sizzling in the pan, one went pop and the other went bang. The UK's experience of the 2000s is a little like that.  We've seen our banks go bang and I fear our parks will now go pop. The Global Financial Crisis has seen a real and dramatic reduction in funding allocated to parks.

In at least two respects parks have already gone pop. First, the open air concert/festival is now as common in UK parks as seasonal planting used to be. Secondly, fizzy pop drinks are getting in on sponsoring parks and making them active, healthy places. The irony of this is not lost. However, it reflects how parks are having to change in the current climate.

By Cliff Lacey

Parks Canada, custodian of some of Canada's most pristine wilderness, is considering the provision of Wi-Fi in some portions of the national park system.

This proposal has brought great consternation from the conservationist movement in Canada who see this as a first step in further development of Canada's precious wild lands. Park managers assure those detractors that this service is intended to cater to a segment of the population that are not park visitors now, and they do not foresee park development as an offshoot of this program.

For more information about the proposal, read the CTV Montreal News article Parks Canada to install wireless hotspots in national parks.