Green spaces characterize urban areas and define the appearance of our cities. Beside the well-known environmental benefits of green spaces (such as improvement of local climate, fine dust reduction, CO2 absorption, increasing biodiversity) there are more complex positive influences on social behaviour, health and well being. Green spaces increase the attractiveness of cities for living in, working in and visiting. Various studies pointed out that there is a strong link between people’s satisfaction with their local parks and green spaces and their satisfaction with their neighbourhood. If people are satisfied with local parks they tend to be satisfied with their council. The largest survey of its kind conducted with those living in deprived communities, residents sees the provision of green space as essential to their quality of life alongside housing, health, education and policing (Cabe, 2010). The European Centre for Environment and Human Health confirmed that people are happier when living in urban areas with greater amounts of green space. Compared to instances when people live in areas with less green space they show significantly lower mental distress and significantly higher wellbeing (life satisfaction).
Poor quality urban green spaces are not only impinging on the image of an area it is also seen as a poor esteem for the residents (“The wellbeing of a community can be measured by the quality and maintenance of local public spaces. Poor provision and maintenance gives the message to communities that the authorities do not care about them”; Cabe 2010). High quality maintenance is the fundament for attractive and functional urban green spaces and in reverse an expression of esteem for local residents. But for various reasons urban green spaces are often become neglected. To keep and improve the value of green spaces in urban areas actions are necessary on different levels.
Steps towards Sustainable Green Space Maintenance
One big issue is always the funding. When financial resources become scarce, environmental and culture services are the most exposed and vulnerable to forced cuts (scanning financial horizons: Modelling the local consequences of fiscal consolidation NLGN, 2010). So the availability of independent funding options should be taken into account at the stage of planning. In general politicians should be made aware to support and enable structural changes. An independent place of green space departments within local authority would be helpful to enhance the assertiveness. Unfortunately in Germany green space maintenance is often carried out by badly paid, low skilled staff. As a result the public has a poor image of urban green space maintenance work. But to improve that local authorities have to realize the need for professional horticultural staff and broaden their own definition of maintenance work which should include more than mowing lawn, cutting brunches and empty the garbage.
As the economist Milton Friedman (* 1912 Brooklyn, New York City; † 2006 San Francisco) said ‘there ain’t no such thing as a free lunch’ – If we want to benefit from the wide services of diverse and aesthetic green spaces and new types of green infrastructures now and in the future, we need to pay the price -ensuring qualified maintenance.