Evaluating Community Engagement with Parks in Ealing


Sponsor: Ealing Parks Foundation Photo of student researchers at Walpole Park in Ealing, London. Left to right: Quentin Collins, Bryce Kennedy, Maddie Donahue, Daisy Connors, Alex Moreira
Sponsor Liaison: Chris Bunting, Sonja Garsvo, Peter Hutchison
Student Team: Quentin Collins, Daisy Connors, Madison Donahue, Bryce Kennedy, Alex Moreira
Abstract: The Ealing Parks Foundation (EPF) is a charity that was formed in 2018 to enhance the community in the London Borough of Ealing by promoting the use of parks and green spaces. We surveyed members of the public, interviewed leaders of other successful parks foundations, interviewed park rangers in the borough, and observed park visitor behavior. We found that many Ealing residents use parks as a safe place to relax, enjoy nature, and walk around, but that many are deterred by dogs, antisocial behavior, litter, and a lack of nighttime lighting, toilets, and benches. We recommended how the EPF might enhance fundraising, build relations with the Council and community, and address park safety and other community concerns. We also provided considerations for those who may continue our research.

Evaluating Community Engagement with Parks in Ealing – Final Report

Evaluating Community Engagement with Parks in Ealing – Final Presentation

Executive Summary


The Ealing Parks Foundation (EPF) is an independent charity that works closely with the local authority, Ealing Council, to help raise funds and assist in the management of parks and green spaces across the London Borough of Ealing. The EPF was established in 2018 in response to the decline of funding for parks by local authorities. EPF focuses on engaging with the community to preserve, enhance, and encourage use of the borough’s green spaces.


The goal of the project was to gather data that can help the Ealing Parks Foundation develop a greater understanding of how people in the borough do or do not engage with green spaces. These data should also provide the EPF with a strong foundation for future projects, fundraising efforts, and activities. The project had four objectives:

  • Assess current and best practices to promote community engagement, support, and use of green spaces in London and elsewhere.
  • Analyze existing data on the current use of green spaces in Ealing.
  • Determine the factors that shape how and why members of the community do or do not engage with green spaces in Ealing.
  • Recommend strategies that the Ealing Parks Foundation can use to promote green spaces in Ealing.

To achieve these objectives, we collected and analyzed data from three distinct sources:

  • Surveys distributed through in-person intercepts, social media, public flyers, and schools
  • Interviews with Ealing Park Rangers and leaders of other parks foundations
  • Observational studies in select parks

We assessed current and best practices by conducting interviews with founders and current leaders of other parks foundations, including a co-founder of The Parks Foundation in Bournemouth, Christchurch, and Poole; the current CEO of The Parks Foundation; and the founder and current Chair of Your Park in Bristol and Bath. By conducting these interviews, we improved our understanding of what it takes to establish and operate an efficient parks foundation. These interviews provided insight into the successes they have had in fundraising, forming relationships with the community and local authority, and making the parks more appealing.

To analyze policies and practices concerning green spaces in the borough, we interviewed Ealing Park Rangers and toured select towns. By conducting interviews with park rangers, we were able to collect information about how community members engage with their local parks, how the council interacts with parks, and how the EPF could aid them. We also toured three of the parks in which we planned to conduct surveys so that we could develop and record our first impressions. We made note of languages spoken, religious and educational buildings, and other notable cultural aspects of the area.

Our third objective was to determine the factors that shape how and why members of the community do or do not engage with green spaces in Ealing. To achieve this goal, our team developed a survey instrument that we distributed through the community in multiple different ways. We conducted in-person intercept surveys in and around four green spaces in the borough: Northala Fields, North Acton Playing Fields, Maytrees Rest Garden, and Southall Park. Figure ES.1 shows the geographic distribution of these locations.

Figure ES.1. Map of the borough with park locations. Clockwise from top left, they are Northala Fields, North Acton Playing Fields, Maytrees Rest Garden, and Southall Park.

We conducted these intercept surveys in various weather conditions and at intervals throughout the day to gather variability regarding park visitors and activities. To distribute our survey more broadly, we also posted the survey online via social platforms and on printed flyers in five of the borough’s seven towns. Finally, we liaised with the Ealing Grid for Learning, which allowed us to distribute the survey to parents of students attending Ealing public schools. We supplemented this survey data by recording observational data in each of the four parks listed above. The team used field notes to document the weather, time of day, and activities that park users engaged in while we were present for survey administration.


Our survey recruited 264 total valid participants, the majority of which accessed the survey from one of our social media postings. Our sample of respondents over-represented women, residents of the town of Ealing, and people above the age of 55.

Our interviews with representatives of parks foundations highlighted that the primary funding source is grants from national organizations as well as local groups and authorities. Fundraising can be facilitated by encouraging members of the community to participate in specific activities (e.g., rubbish removal, tree planting) and donate. Additionally, one of the parks foundation representatives mentioned continuously accepting donations from the community in the form of online donations, donation boxes, and memorial donations to commemorate loved ones.

Our survey data and discussions with park rangers revealed factors that discourage park use. While 80% of respondents identified that they feel safe in the parks, some expressed concerns about safety that reduce their park usage, especially during the evening hours. Dimly lit areas encourage antisocial behavior from young crowds drinking at night, which deters some members of the community from visiting parks at those times. Park rangers indicated that local authority budget cuts have resulted in understaffing and made enforcement more difficult. This is especially true in the town of Southall, where, compared to other locations in the borough, 24% fewer survey respondents described feeling safe in parks. Implementing features that mitigate these concerns, such as nighttime lighting, may make visitors more comfortable, increasing the perceived safety of the area and allowing for more park engagement.

We learned from other parks foundations that a lack of amenities like toilets and benches make the park less accessible, as their absence limits the amount of time that people can spend at a park. In fact, 35% of survey respondents agreed that parks in the borough lacked sufficient benches, tables, and other rest areas. Through our observations and surveys, we found that walking and getting fresh air were the two most common outdoor activities that people engage in when visiting parks. Notably, there were also some features and activities unique to certain parks (e.g., fishing, a café, and athletic facilities) that draw visitors to those parks over others. Introducing spaces to accommodate dog walkers, cyclists, children at play, and sports may allow for more interactions with certain parks. Park visitors also appreciate the parks appearing well maintained and fashionable. Considering community desires whilst keeping the parks accessible for all will allow for the local community to frequent their parks more.

The last major finding we drew from our data was the importance of establishing strong relationships with the local authority and the greater community. In our interviews with the other parks foundation representatives, they all stressed the need to clearly lay out relationships with the local authority in written agreements (e.g., memorandums of understanding). These representatives also emphasized the importance of connecting with the community through social media platforms, organization websites, and newsletters. Park rangers explained the need for local parks-related groups to come together and to pool improvement efforts. They suggested that the Ealing Parks Foundation could serve as a central hub for these groups to unite and discuss park information.

Conclusions and Recommendations

Based on our findings, we created a set of recommendations to help the Ealing Parks Foundation increase community engagement with parks in the borough. We divided our recommendations into four main categories: enhancing fundraising efforts, addressing community safety concerns, making improvements based on community needs, and communicating effectively.

Regarding enhancing fundraising efforts, we recommend:

  • Applying for national grants.
  • Developing specific projects to encourage local fundraising.
  • Providing an opportunity for public donations online or at events.

Regarding addressing community safety concerns, we recommend:

  • Introducing certain features to increase the perception of park safety.
  • Encouraging prevention of antisocial behavior.

Regarding making improvements based on community needs, we recommend:

  • Encouraging the improvements of park
  • Identifying specific parks and sites for future projects.
  • Considering expanding the Board of Trustees.

Regarding communicating effectively, we recommend:

  • Establishing a clear relationship with Ealing Council.
  • Increasing awareness of the Ealing Parks Foundation.
  • Building relationships with community groups.

A complete list of recommendations is found in Chapter 5. For each recommendation, we discuss the factors that lead us to the recommendation, how the recommendation could positively impact the community, and how the Ealing Parks Foundation may implement the recommendation.