78 of the best managed parks and open spaces in Northern Ireland have be recognised with a Green Flag Award.
Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, the environmental charity that runs the scheme in Northern Ireland, revealed an ever growing and diverse number of free to enjoy places that have been awarded a prestigious Green Flag Award. The Green Flag Award is an internationally recognised certification for environmental quality management for parks and open spaces.
This year more people that ever took the opportunity to enjoy parks and open spaces across Northern Ireland. For many these sites provided an essential service during lockdown, offering up safe space to exercise and connect with nature. Access to quality recreational space has a number of benefits for people in Northern including improved physical and mental health and the opportunity to learn about our environment.
Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said:
“Northern Ireland’s parks and open spaces play a hugely important role in supporting our local communities, both in terms of providing recreational space but also for supporting health and wellbeing. This has been highlighted now more than ever as our parks and open spaces provided a haven to many during the difficult lockdown period. It is fantastic to see such a high number of sites in Northern Ireland meeting the international standard for excellence.”
Parks and open spaces wishing to achieve Green Flag status must have a site management plan in place and be able to demonstrate they comply with a range of strict criteria including horticultural standards, cleanliness, environmental management, biodiversity, community involvement and safety standards. The Awards are judged annually by a panel of experts, who volunteer their time to assess the management plans and the applicant sites through a rigorous judging process.
For the 2020/21 season, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful saw a continued increase in public parks, gardens, country parks, cemeteries and green spaces meeting the demanding standards.
Stormont Estate and Belfast Botanic Gardens were amongst 7 sites which also received a Green Flag Heritage Award. This award recognises the parks and open spaces which celebrate and promote the elements of their heritage that make them unique. Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful also celebrates The Green Flag Community Award, which recognises sites managed and maintained by loyal volunteers working at a local level.
Three Mid Ulster District Council parks and green spaces including Dungannon Park were among this years winners. Council Chair, Cllr. Cathal Mallaghan said
“The continuing achievement of the Green Flag Awards across the three Mid Ulster sites of Hill of The O’Neill, Dungannon Park and Maghera Walled Garden, especially in the challenging circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, is a testament to the hard work out staff put in to ensure that our high quality green spaces remained open, and continue to be as accessible, environmentally sustainable, and as pleasant to use as they possibly can be for members of the public.”
A full list of winners can be found on the Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful Website.