Fields in Trust

UNIVERSALITY OF PARKS: Ten things to consider when reviewing your local park’s accessibility

Posted on 20th August 2019
As our Summer of Parks discusses universality of parks we look at ten things to take into consideration to help a park be as accessible as it can be.

Parks and green spaces are the most universal of our public services, available free at the point of use to everyone within society. For some of us, however, a trip to the park brings barriers which must be overcome in order to achieve the most enjoyment from the space.

With a little effort, these barriers can be reduced, or even eliminated, to ensure everyone can love their local park to the fullest. When you're next visiting your local green space, think about how many of these ten things have been taken into consideration to help make the park as accessible as it can be.

Locating the park

Is the park easy to find for both locals and visitors alike? Even a park that is centrally located within a community may be difficult to access if the entrances aren't adequately sign-posted. A simple pointer towards the nearest entrance can help encourage people to visit the space.

Are any roads that lead up to the park suitable for pedestrians as well as vehicles? People may be put off from using the park if they can't walk there from their home or office. If the park has a designated entrance then setting it back from any passing road will give ample space for access. Ensuring people feel safe approaching the space will make them more willing to return.

Entering the park

If there are entrance gates, are they suitable for use by everyone? Gates that include latches need to have them low enough to ensure they can be used by people in wheelchairs who wish to enjoy the space.

Will the surface stand up to the weather? The entrance area of a park is the most well-trodden part of the space and so it will need a more hard-wearing surface and regular maintenance to ensure visitors don't have to walk through mud or jump around puddles to enter the park.

Navigating the park

Can people find their way around the park once they have entered? Many parks will include a map which signposts popular attractions to ensure visitors can quickly find something that is of interest to them.

Can people make their way around the park once they have entered? Finding your way is one thing, but making the journey is another. Are the paths of suitable quality for those who may be less stable on their feet? Are they wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs or buggies? Ensuring parents can move around a park with their children is important to encouraging them to introduce their youngsters to the green world around them.

Enjoying the park

Are there activities for everyone? A mix of facilities and activities is key to ensuring everyone can enjoy a space equally and alongside each other. There's an abundance of play equipment available that is suitable for diverse needs to ensure everyone can experience the joy of play. Placing an outdoor gym close to a play area can help encourage both carers and children to use these two facilities simultaneously as they can see one-another. If siting different aspects of provision close to one another, ensure there is enough of a buffer zone around each so that everyone has space to enjoy the equipment they are using. Our Guidance for Outdoor Sport and Play includes suggested buffer zones for formal outdoor space typologies.

Are there facilities for everyone? People are more likely to spend more time enjoying their local park if there are good quality, well maintained toilet and café facilities located within the space.

Can people take rest? Sometimes the best part of a visit to the local park is just sitting back and admiring the view or listening to birds chirp in the trees. Good quality seating located close to paths and with attractive aspects can help people to sit back for a minute or an hour, as well as giving those who are less mobile an opportunity to rest whilst making their way around the space.

Sharing the park

When we think of accessibility we think of physical accessibility, but what about digital accessibility? Can people share their trip to the park with friends, use their device within the park (if they want to!) or even discover new aspects of the park with their smartphone or tablet? As we discovered earlier in our Summer of Parks there are an abundance of apps out there to help us all enjoy our local green spaces - why not check out these eight apps to put parks in your pocket and if you know your park well, help to share it with others by adding a jaunt to GoJauntly or a trail to TiCL?

Summer of Parks: Join the discussion as we champion our parks and green spaces

Green Space Index: Our new barometer of publicly accessible green space provision

UK's Best Park: Celebrate your favourite local green space - discover the results

From the Minister: Rishi Sunak MP joins our Summer of Parks with a guest blog