Published On: Thu, Apr 19th, 2012 at 5:46pm

Local resident urges council to resurrect Friends of Queen’s Park Group

As Queen’s Park gets set to celebrate its 150th anniversary, one concerned resident has been engaging with the Glasgow City Council calling for short and long term improvements to the park, including the reinvigoration of its Friends Group, which has not been active for almost 10 years.

Resident Tony Halifax first raised his concerns about Queen’s Park with Glasgow City Council in February this year.  He is now set to point out these concerns to Glasgow City Council Assistant Area Manager Douglas Gellan in a walk around the park to be scheduled quite soon.  If Land and Environmental Services (LES) approve, we understand that Gellan has also said he will consider how the Council can support a Friends of Queen’s Park group which Halifax is keen to start.  Additionally, the two men have been discussing how Glasgow Community Reparation teams could undertake remedial work which would improve the standard of the park for everyone.

Halifax said:-“They are only offers at the moment, they’ve not been set in stone. But if they are, if there was help to get us a Friends of Queen’s Park set up, I’m sure we could actually make that work.  If we could get the Reparation teams in place, then that would actually address some of the backlog of work and then after that the Friends of Queen’s Park working with LES might just actually be able to get a better path forward than we’ve had to date.”

While Halifax already knows about eight people who would be interested in restarting the Friends of Queen’s Park he’s keen to engage with the wider community.  He said:- “In terms of the community spirit, I think it would be nicer to open up to a wider community and get a greater involvement if we can.”  If the council were to allocate some funds to the Friends Group he would set about finding out what the wider community would want from a Friends Group and Queen’s Park itself.

He is hopeful that the local community will voice its opinion about the park though he is concerned that Glasgow has “a very large silent majority.”  Response to his recent actions to engage with the Council from those he has spoken with “state very clearly that they’re saddened by the deterioration of the park; that it’s actually been going on over a long time and nothing’s being done about it.  They also actually cite how dirty the Shawlands area and the park location are.  That’s come up at two meetings now: the first about the Shawlands development plan which actually took place in early February and more recently at an East Strathbungo meeting which Nicola Sturgeon MSP attended, as well as regular notations at the Shawlands and Strathbungo Community Council meetings.”

Halifax is realistic about the impact of Council budget restrictions, and believes the community needs to step in to fill the gap.  He would like to understand what the council’s planned maintenance programme is for the park.  “From that,” he said, “we can work with the council to find out how the community feels about it via the Friends of Queen’s Park.  Then the Friends of Queen’s Park can contribute to the vision and the work plan.  And the second aspect is to get supporters of the park who will become workers.  So the community takes up some of the slack on behalf of LES.”

The Glasgow Reporter first walked around Queen’s Park with Halifax in the middle of March when he initially raised a number of his concerns.  Top of his list was the amount of fallen leaves.  The leaves, when left to rot, he said, develop acidity which destroys the grass.  There are many stretches in the park where this is evident.  The park has since been mown and many of the leaves have actually been removed.

Halifax cites tree maintenance as another concern.  He said:- “In terms of general maintenance the trees here are over 150 years old.  There are some fantastic specimens but there is very little tree maintenance taking place.  Without it the branches get heavier and heavier, and eventually when we get a strong wind, lo and behold the trees fall down.  We’ve seen evidence of lots of trees actually falling down within the park area, none of them being replaced, some of them not actually being removed.  Now with some better maintenance I think we could address that.”

The walk around the park revealed other concerns.  Fences, damaged by the falling trees, have been left unrepaired, grass verges are not maintained and there are a number of areas in the park with drainage problems.  The Council in a letter of response to Halifax said that fencing repairs had been noted and passed to the department’s internal blacksmiths.

Halifax describes the Victoria Road entrance to Queen’s Park as “shockingly bad.”   There’s a light missing from the right hand side of the park gate.  Behind it is a sign that fell down which has not been repaired, and there are cones covering a hole that has been there for over a month.  The whole effect is a rather tired welcome to the popular Southside park.

Halifax is clearly enthusiastic about the area.  He said:-“I think being a newcomer to Glasgow by choice, I have clearly a passion for the city, and for Scotland.  I recognise the parks of Glasgow as being an intrinsic part of the city, particularly in the way that they work with the communities; providing leisure, recreation and social contribution.  Now within that, Queen’s Park is of particular interest because of its historical value.  I think its design, its use and its social benefit is of such importance that to see the decay that’s actually occurring at the moment and the lack of maintenance is worrying.  And I think that’s why I feel so passionately about it; seeing such a wonderful asset falling into disrepute.”  He would like Queen’s Park, currently a district park, to achieve City Park status but is unsure why it doesn’t already fulfil City Park status criteria.

Photos courtesy of Tony Halifax

The Glasgow Reporter contacted the four councillors representing Glasgow’s Southside ward, regarding the complaint Halifax had raised about Queen’s Park.  Councillor Anne Marie Millar said she had not received any complaints about the park recently, but confirmed that she would raise it with LES.  While she was aware that there currently was no Friends of Queen’s Park group she subsequently said:-“LES is liaising with a constituent who is trying to form a group.  LES have stated they will fully support this, and I’m advised they have arranged a meeting in two weeks time.”

Regarding the anniversary of Queen’s Park, Councillor Millar said:- “150 years is, in my opinion, something worth celebrating and I will discuss with LES and the relevant interested parties to see how we can celebrate this.”  She had been further advised that “LES have started work in the park to prepare it.”

Councillor Millar added:- “I think Queen’s Park is a valuable asset not just to the surrounding community but to the City.  It is a park that I took my own children to and now my grandchildren, weather permitting, and they all have enjoyed this park over the years and still do.”

Named after Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen’s Park was opened on the 18th September 1862.  It was designed by landscape architect Sir Joseph Paxton (who also designed Kelvingrove), with some design modifications from city architect John Carrick.  Falling within the Southside ward, it is bordered by Pollokshaws Road, Langside Avenue, Landside Road and Queen’s Drive.  Its 148 acres include the well known Glasshouse, a boating and a nature pond, play parks, a golf course, tennis courts and plenty of land to explore.  Around 300,000 people visit the park each year.

If you are interested in becoming a Friend of Queen’s Park, please contact us at theglasgowreporter@gmail.com

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