For the 2014/15 season, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful saw an incredible 57% increase in public parks, country parks, cemeteries and green spaces meeting the internationally recognised standards demanded by the Green Flag Award.First-time winners this year include Stormont Estate (Department of Finance and Personnel), Ness Country Park (Northern Ireland Environment Agency), Kiltonga Nature Reserve (Ards Borough Council), Dromore Town Park and Scarva Park (Banbridge District Council), Dunville Park and Woodvale Park (Belfast City Council), Dungannon Park (Dungannon & South Tyrone Borough Council), Slieve Gullion Forest Park (Newry and Mourne District Council) and Ballynure Cemetery, Lilian Bland Park, Rashee Cemetery and Sentry Hill Historic House & Visitor Centre (Newtownabbey Borough Council).
The Green Flag Awards are judged every year by volunteer expert judges who visit applicant sites and assess them against the eight set criteria, including cleanliness, sustainability and conservation. The value of parks and green spaces is often underestimated but they are important for health and wellbeing; a stroll in green surrounds can reduce stress levels and allow us to escape from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The launch of the awards this year comes in the same week that thousands of people throughout Northern Ireland are celebrating the fantastic parks and green spaces in this country as part of Love Parks Week, which is supported by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful.
Speaking at the Green Flag Awards, Environment Minister, Mark H Durkan said: “We can be rightly proud of our beautiful public parks and open green spaces. They are an integral part of what makes Northern Ireland attractive to increasing numbers of tourists and they play a very important role in helping to improve the quality of life for all of the people of the North.
“I look forward to the excellent Green Flag Award Scheme moving on from strength to strength over the coming years and helping more of our public parks and open green spaces achieve higher environmental standards.”
Dr. Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said: “We are fortunate to have such a wealth of dedicated green space managers and volunteers, who work tirelessly to keep our public green spaces looking great. These people, and the organisations that employ them, have real vision, commitment and passion. They have vision for our greenspace, planting a sapling today and imagining its impact in 50 or 100 years’ time; they have commitment to meet the Green Flag Award standard, despite all the problems including budgetary constraints; and they have the passion to continuously improve our green space for everyone to enjoy. With such people at work it is no surprise that once again a record number of awards are being made.”
If you are interested in finding out further information about the Green Flag Award or other programmes run by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful please e-mail us on [email protected] call us on 028 9073 6920 or check out our website www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org.