Work has started on an ambitious programme to bring new attractions and enhancements to Peterborough’s Nene Park as bosses predict a surge in visitors.
A lengthy list of projects has been unveiled to transform the 1,725 acre park and turn it into the destination of choice for thousands of people across the region.
The works, ranging from food production to restoring the park’s heritage, to new sports provision, are part of the park’s new 10 year strategy.
Bosses have been spurred on by forecasts of a huge increase in the number of Peterborough residents over the next 30 years, with many expected to want to spend time in the park.
The trust says not only must it be in a position to accommodate extra visitors but it also wants to be the region’s destination of choice.
Its strategy seeks to provide more and better activities while also retaining the park as a wildlife and heritage haven offering quiet countryside for those who seek it.
The strategy was outlined to volunteers and trustees at a special meeting at the park’s Lakeside Centre and follows the launch last year of the trust’s 30 year masterplan.
A new logo for Nene Park was also revealed, which trust chief executive Matthew Bradbury said was designed to to show the entire park as a visitor destination.
He told the meeting: “We’re so excited to be unveiling the new logo and strategy for Nene Park.
“We’re committed to developing Nene Park as a place which is accessible to everyone across our community, and as a space which represents an incredibly valuable resource for the entire region.
“And that’s not just Ferry Meadows. This is a great opportunity for us to remind our visitors that Nene Park also includes Thorpe Meadows, Orton Mere, Woodston Reach and the Rural Estate to the west of Ferry Meadows.”
Mr Bradbury said: “Our vision for Nene Park is for it to be the region’s favourite park, providing a permanent haven for heritage and wildlife and a wide choice of recreational activities for the people of Peterborough and the wider community.
“Our aim is to be a beautifully designed park that is loved by everyone.
“We believe our strategy will help us achieve that and plan a sustainable future for Nene Park over the next 10 years.”
Figures show the population of Peterborough is expected to reach 237,700 by 2040, compared to 186,000 in 2011.
Mr Bradbury said: “We face a huge challenge to accommodate the number of visitors expected to the park in the next few years.
“Peterborough has one of the fastest growing populations. Combined with the fact that 57 per cent of adults use their local parks once a month or more, it’s clear we face a huge challenge to accommodate more visitors to Nene Park over the coming years.
“Significant investment is required to take the park into the future and to ensure it is a place for future generations to enjoy.
“Much of our infrastructure is of the same age and much of it will need replacing at the same time.”
Among the new projects are plans to begin growing food in the park which could be served in its cafes.
Mr Bradbury said: “Working with our agricultural tenants, horticultural volunteers and schools we could grow food in the park that could be served in our cafes.
“We have also just secured funding to buy an electric vehicle that can help us to create a better presence in the city as staff take the park out into the community.”
Other ideas include an open air cinema and theatre, Proms in the Park and other events with a cultural theme.
The trust is also looking at increasing the amount of sculpture in the park, growing the number of volunteers and ensuring the park helps to improve the health of people through recreation.
Mr Bradbury said: “We want to create a better experience for visitors and ensure the park is still a place where people can come and just enjoy a coffee and some quiet time in the countryside, or walk their dog without fear of abuse from other users.
“We want people to find their own favourite parts of the park.”
Mr Bradbury said he wanted the trust to be more commercially astute and be a key regional partner and collaborate more with tenants and neighbours.
He said: “I want to develop our resources, invest in people, governance and sustainabilty.”
Other key projects for 2018 and beyond, include an increase in the number of activities at the Lakeside Activity Hub by developing the water sports offer and the installation of an oudoor climbing challenge this spring, followed by development of an indoor adventure space. A play area near Lakeside will be also be developed.
Improvements to the Thorpe Meadows gateway to the park with the creation of a café, toilet and play facilities but also supporting the development of rowing and encourage active use of the site.
Working with Peterborough City Council to improve access to Nene Park through council-owned greenspace, such as through Thorpe Lea Meadows to the city centre. A Heritage Lottery Fund application for £2 million has been made to support the preservation and improvement of the built and natural heritage of the park. A key element is to replace the Pontoon Bridge with an improved new structure. The trust has secured a long lease on the Woodlands Community Sports Pitches and hopes football, cricket and tennis will be returning to the site this year. Work has also started on a landmark project, Bringing Nature Closer, creating a large area of flood plain meadow habitat for a range of species, particularly wading birds.
No plans to install CCTV in the park
The new Nene Park Trust strategy does not involve the introduction of CCTV to the parklands in a bid to combat vandalism.
The park has suffered extensively over the last couple of years from a spate of vandalism.
Trees, benches and play structures have been left badly damaged in the attacks that appear to have been carried out by someone using a power tool.
Matthew Bradbury, chief executive of Nene Park Trust, told the strategy meeting: “We don’t plan to install CCTV. There are too many entrances to the park, and it would not be practical.
“I prefer working with visitors, the community and the police and hope that people power prevails.”