Your Questions Answered
What is a National Park City?
As per its Mission Statement, it is about achieving a Galway city that is more Greener, Bluer, Healthier, Safer, Beautiful, Sustainable, Equitable, Harmonious and Wilder where people value, benefit from, and are strongly connected to the rest of Nature.
It is an initiative that involves people from all sectors of local society working together towards achieving this vision.
What is the difference between a National Park City and a National Park?
To put it simply a National Park City is about people living in an urban environment reconnecting with the natural world; while a National Park is an area of rural landscape or natural wilderness where wildlife can flourish away from human settlement and exploitation.
Ireland’s six national parks are places of unspoiled ecosystems protected by national legislation and open to the public for educational, cultural, and controlled recreational use only. They are designated places of safety for flora and fauna.
A National Park City is about integrating Nature into our urban infrastructure.
What are the aims of National Park City?
They are ambitious but all are achievable!
It wants to
- Connect all of Galway’s residents to the rest of Nature.
- Make the Outdoor Classroom part of school life.
- Ensure Galway’s residents have free and easy access to high quality green and blue space.
- Make the majority of Galway physically green and blue (this would include waterways, wetlands, meadows, woods, farmland, parks, home gardens…)
- Improve the richness, connectivity and biodiversity of Galway’s habitats.
- Endeavour to improve Galway’s air and water quality year on year.
- Inspire the building of affordable green homes.
- Inspire new green business opportunities and activities.
- Implement a city-wide pedestrian-cycle network where people can walk or cycle in a safe, clean green landscape.
- To raise awareness and appreciation of Galway City’s extensive network of natural and man-made waterways and to ensure their better management and sensitive development for Galway’s residents, visitors, and wildlife.
- Promote Nature through Art.
- Promote locally grown food and responsible consumption.
- Work towards achieving Zero Waste.
- Nurture a shared National Park City identity for Galwegians that everyone feels part of and can contribute towards.
- Endeavour to deliver on the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals
Check out the full list of aims, principles and deliverables of the National Park City.
Who are its supporters?
President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins is patron for the National Park City for Galway initiative. Check out the President’s speech from its launch on October 29th 2020.
Duncan Stewart, the renowned environmentalist and media personality, is its national champion.
Kathryn Tierney of the Co-ordination, Inter-institutional Relations and Planning Unit (A.1), Directorate-General Environment (DG ENV), and involved in implementing the European Green Deal, is its European Champion.
Daniel Raven-Ellison, founder of the London National Park City, is its mentor.
A series of local champions (presently 90) form a steering committee which will normally meet once every two to three months. These individuals represent a large cross section of backgrounds, professions and sectors of Galway society including education, community, health, medical, arts, environment, youth, direct provision, scientific research, technology innovation, engineering, corporate business, small business, crafts, residential neighbourhoods, marine, waterways protection, renewable energies, cycling advocacy, walking advocacy, sport, media, tourism, architecture, heritage, animal welfare and urban farming. Each of these individuals have in their own professional and volunteering capacities been undertaking incredible work, often for many years, to enhance and care for the city’s unique natural heritage and to help others to benefit from it. Much of their activities often takes place without the wider general public being aware of it.
The National Park City initiative will help join up and promote their work, provide a city-wide commonality of purpose and inspire others from all of the different sectors to follow suit. It is about increasing awareness and of encouraging dynamic positive change towards enhancing the natural environment, greenifying the built development and encouraging sustainability in all aspects of life. So whilst the National Park City is a forum and broad-based movement to celebrate existing appropriate proactive policies and programmes from the city’s stakeholders, nevertheless it is also an opportunity to launch new projects to promote sustainability, protect the natural world and to tackle Climate Change.
This has already happened with many of the partners being inspired by the initiative to come up with pioneering innovative proposals and solutions sometimes involving other champions that have in some cases captured the public imagination.
How will a National Park City status impact on built development and on the city growing?
Positively! Under a National Park City designation, Galway will continue to grow, develop and become more a dynamic city where people want to live, to study, to work, to enjoy and to visit. The planning authority for the city is Galway City Council which coordinates a two year public consultation process that leads to the acceptance of a strategy known as the Galway City Development Plan which decides what gets built, where and how for a period of six years. The next plan, which covers the period from 2023 to 2029, is presently up for public review and discussion.
Being a National Park City presents the opportunity to create and construct more sustainable, better connected infrastructure, services and communities and services, green design for new buildings, the provision of greenways and a safe walking/cycling infrastructure, where planning regulations encourage green features such as the use of renewable energies, rooftop/vertical gardens, rainwater collection systems, community green space or native planting areas and where workplaces and business parks have biodiversity enhancements and healthy work environments.
Why is a National Park City for Galway needed now and what benefits will it bring to people’s lives?
COVID-19 has been a reality check for everyone, in terms of what matters in life, and in how we live, work and play. It has taught us the value of integrating walking, cycling and quality green space in the form of parks, woods and waterways and why henceforth they must be designed into the infrastructure of our cities; the necessity of making our accommodation more energy efficient, more liveable with the presence of plant life to filter out problematic gases; the importance of looking after the health of the planet and its rich biodiversity; the urgent need to tackle Climate Change; and the essentiality of promoting sustainability into our economic, social and educational systems.
All of these requirements form the basis of the Mission Statement, Aims, Principles, and Deliverables of a Galway National Park City, which could act as a blueprint for other cities to follow in order to survive and prosper into the future.
What will Galway as a National Park City look like in the future?
Galway will evolve into a National Park City by the active participation of people from all levels of local society and the role of the champions in this transformation. For everyone can be inspired by the actions of champions to play a part in making a sustainable people-focused biodiversity-friendly, more relaxed green city a reality.
A Galway that is a National Park City will be a place where:
- tackling Climate Change underpins all local government policies especially in the areas of transport, housing, energy and the environment.
- volunteerism from schools, colleges, residential areas and places of employment on local green initiatives becomes a norm.
- living space for a diverse range of wildlife is provided through increased recognition of the need to protect and enhance biodiversity and wildlife habitats by way of the policies of local government and that of other relevant organisations.
- a series of linked woodlands, meadows, wetlands, parks, waterways and green spaces provide ‘ecological corridors’ for wildlife to move into and out of the city.
- community native tree and wildflower plantings become an annual feature of Galway city.
- a network of walkways and cycleways are developed within the city including that of a ‘botharín’ (boreen) network, that link into the proposed Greenways of county Galway and beyond.
- where non-car modes of transport are prioritised.
- people of all ages and abilities can enjoy, explore and learn in high quality green spaces and a natural world within the city’s boundaries.
- where people can take advantage of natural Outdoor Gyms.
- the students of schools and colleges have the opportunities to learn in Outdoor Classrooms and in Outdoor Laboratories provided by local natural environments.
- schools teach a ‘Sustainability, Conservation and Wellbeing through Nature’ type module with a local as well as a global content.
- Galway-based science institutes and third-level educational establishments are internationally renowned centres of excellence for biodiversity, environmental and green technology research that endeavour where possible to give such research a local focus and/or implementation by way of a Citizen Science ethos.
- art is recognised as a creative medium to bring Nature into people’s lives.
- new and developing Smart City and data analytics technologies are used to promote a Green and Healthy city.
- reduction, reuse, recycling and upcycling is a way of life.
- each neighbourhood has easy access to sports fields, passive recreational areas, natural habitats and community organic gardens.
- green spaces and natural areas are recognised as highly beneficial to people’s mental and physical health.
- the medical profession provides whenever possible a ‘Green Prescription’ to patients by recommending outdoor activities such as walking in natural landscapes.
- people are encouraged to become urban farmers and grow organic food at home, in allotments and in neighbourhood/school/workplace gardens.
- the retail and the hospitality sectors recognise that Climate Change and food miles matter and prioritise local organic produce and use where possible locally sustainable materials whilst reducing the use of plastics and food waste.
- where local food markets, ‘slow food’ and neighbourhood harvest and social festivals are encouraged.
- planning regulations encourage green features such as the use of renewable energies, rooftop/vertical gardens, rainwater collection systems, community green space or native planting areas.
- workplaces and business parks promote biodiversity enhancements and healthy work environments.
- the rural heritage of the city’s outer areas such as Menlo, Coolough, Castlegar and Ballindooley are protected.
- where all sectors of society promote and develop a ‘circular economy’ ethos.
How many cities have National Park City designation?
Only one, namely London. The designation of National Park City was formally launched in July 2019 by the Mayor of London Sadiq Khan when the capital of England and of the United Kingdom became the first city in the world to claim this status. Check out https://www.nationalparkcity.london/.
Its designation is based on the Charter below that was signed up to by all of the city’s borough councils and a multitude of business, community, educational and environmental organisations:
We are working together for better:
- lives, health and wellbeing
- wildlife, trees and flowers
- places, habitats, air, water, sea and land
- time outdoors, culture, art, playing, walking, cycling and eating
- locally grown food and responsible consumption
- decisions, sharing, learning and working together
- relationships with nature and with each other
The signatories collectively agreed to share the ambition, responsibility and power to deliver these things and more.
However enthusiasts from cities all over the world are now meeting up regularly to formulate a set of universal principles that will govern what is a National Park City.