• Fri. Aug 5th, 2022

The park ranger says yes to a park support group

ByJulie J. Helfer

Jul 2, 2022

The Simmons Park Warden has expressed support for a group of volunteers to help staff maintain the park.

Councilors debated setting up the group to help park staff with tasks such as weeding and litter picking up, which would allow the park keeper to focus on more skilled jobs.

Park keeper James McGahey said: ‘I have seen National Trust properties advertise for volunteers to help and for the size of the area we cover which has grown in recent times and l team I have which is mostly part-time, it’ll really help.

“Not all the weeding is done. It’s a never-ending battle, so we were looking to find a group of willing volunteers to help and free us.

“It could allow people to find out what’s going on in the park and bring the community together.”

Cllr Debra Travers echoed Mr McGahey’s hopes and suggested the introduction of such a group could reduce incidents of vandalism and encourage people to work together.

At the parks committee’s last meeting last Monday (June 20) she said: ‘I think it would be a very good idea, not only because it would get some work done, but if those people wore high visibility vests, it could deter anti-social behavior and act as a deterrent.

However, some fear it could increase the workload of the park warden as he would be required to oversee the work of volunteers, although Mr McGahey has expressed no concerns.

He said: ‘I can organize work for them to work wherever I am. We would just have them do things like weed, nothing involving machinery.

For now, the board has not made a firm decision on whether to organize such a group.

Currently, park staff do not receive any community assistance, although the Okement Rivers Improvement Group (ORIG) is a voluntary group that looks after the Okement River, part of which flows through the park.

Mr McGahey added: ‘We are not getting any help and a group of volunteers would just help.’

Okehampton City Council has agreed to investigate the possibility and extend the offer of volunteer work in the park to ORIG.

ORIG’s work includes bank clearing, coppicing, organic debris and waste removal, weir and riverbed restoration, and pollution monitoring.

ORIG has also worked with community group Plastic Free Okehampton which aims to raise awareness of single-use plastic issues and encourage Okehampton residents to become more environmentally friendly.