Government award Runner-up:
Johannesburg City Parks
“Instead of wide, open grassed areas, a new variety of activities needed to be incorporated into the parks system,” said communications manager Alet van Rensburg. “The distribution of community and neighbourhood parks remains of primary importance because these are focus-point parks that offer both active and passive opportunities.”
City Parks is the official custodian of open-space resources, including formal parks, cemeteries, streets, trees and roadsides in the Johannesburg area. In keeping with the Johannesburg 2030 vision a variety of community parks have been created in Soweto, polluted river systems have been cleaned up, and natural areas along ridges and wetlands have been restored.
Van Rensburg said it is important to link ecologically sensitive areas and urban green spaces through corridors of natural vegetation. This is especially true in the southern areas, where little open space planning has been done in the past.
“People are attracted to live, work and invest in green surroundings. Protecting and expanding our urban parks, particularly areas of regeneration, is a very cost-effective way of underpinning the local and regional economy and engaging with local communities,” said Van Rensburg.
Civic ownership of urban greening efforts is at the core of City Parks’ approach. Citizens have been engaged “from local to regional level to take ownership and participate in the planting, care and management of all vegetation”.
Job creation and poverty alleviation have been key social factors in addressing the greening plan. Since 2004 at least 7500 jobs have been created.
“This includes short-term jobs for the unemployed within local communities through the implementation of labour-intensive projects. Skills within communities have also developed through on-the-job and accredited training,” said Van Rensburg.
“Small businesses and emerging contractors have been capacitated by facilitating the transfer of sustainable technical, managerial and financial skills. City Parks’ annual budget spent has also included and retained local community services.”
The Greening judges said Johannesburg City Parks was “innovating and inspiring”, and urged the unit to multiply its activities in the ever-expanding metropolis.