This summer, the unsung heroes of Northern Ireland’s best loved parks and green spaces were encouraged to continue making space for nature at the annual Green Flag awards.
The Green Flag Award is an internationally recognised certification for environmental quality management for parks and open spaces and is increasingly sought after in Northern Ireland since the local programme opened in 2008.
This year saw the very first special Pollinator Award category for parks. This prize was awarded to parks which had achieved green flag status but were also implementing habitat creation and restoration measures for pollinating insects.
To help pollinators, parks conducted a range of projects including pollinator-friendly planting schemes, creating no mow meadow areas, introducing native hedgerows and native tree planting, eliminating the use of pesticides and herbicides, providing signage on the importance of sites for pollinators, and engaging with the wider community.
Two winners of the inaugural Pollinator Award were named: the Clotworthy Courtyard at Antrim Castle Gardens won in the community category, and the Castle Park and Walled Garden in Bangor won in the organisation category.
Billy Neill MBE Country Park was highly commended for its work for pollinators, and commendations were given to Queen’s University Belfast and Grange Park in Omagh.
“They’re not just spaces for us, they’re spaces for nature.”
Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful which manages the local Green Flag Awards programme, said;
“Communities across the country value their local parks enormously and their potential to support biodiversity is being increasingly recognised. They’re not just spaces for us, they’re spaces for nature… It’s so encouraging, this year, to see councils, organisations and communities implementing such a wide variety of measures to help our pollinating insects which are severely under pressure. Some of the initiatives are bold and some are subtle, but all show great commitment to working with nature for the benefit of the environment and us all.”
“There is huge potential for parks to set aside wild areas in which nature can thrive.”
Environment Minister, Edwin Poots, MLA, who attended the event, commended the good work being done by so many park managers to improve conditions for pollinators, saying:
“It’s very encouraging to see the growing awareness about the importance of pollinators and biodiversity generally within our local communities. The huge interest in my department’s pollinator grants, which were aimed at schools and community groups have undoubtedly helped to spread awareness about this important issue. Parks are where many of our citizens go for outdoor relaxation and exercise and there is huge potential for these spaces to set aside wild areas in which nature can thrive. I commend the work of all of our Green Flag award winners.”
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