Only two years ago, the Salford Ranger Team had 15 staff. Now there are six. And if the proposed cuts for 2013 go ahead there will be just two rangers left to cover the whole of Salford.
This is the Salford that the Council boasts is `60% green space, 18sq miles of countryside and parks, 6 waterways, 30 miles of rivers and canals, 112 ponds and lakes etc etc…'. There's even a huge pink mural in the Civic Centre reception screaming about it.
Now all those parks, ponds and green spaces could be derelict, overgrown and crime ridden if the Salford Ranger Team which looks after them and brings them to life is almost axed in the cuts.
At the Salford Against the Cuts public meeting last Saturday (see here), two rangers, Jill and Gale, gave a passionate account of what they do and the affect of their virtual disappearance from the sites…
"Years ago the Victorians recognised the value of parks for people living in cities, they realised how important is was for people's health and well being, from the very young to the old, and that is why there are so many left in Salford" said Gale "A well cared for park reflects upon the area we live – it is the reason why people choose to live here, and says much about a city's aspirations.
"Victoria Park has a Green Flag award, which is the highest standard a park can achieve, and Clifton Country Park is so well cared for and loved that it attracts over 100,000 visitors every year, many of whom come every day or week - these places are on your doorstep. Parks are for everyone, they are our outdoor leisure centres and are free. But you can't have a leisure centre without attendants, and this is what the Rangers do.
"What is needed are people to support, supervise, and develop the projects which involve and encourage Salford's people" she added "The green spaces need to be cared for, and people need to be involved, to help them respect and understand their environment.
"It's been shown that without this presence in green spaces, the quality of the environment declines with increased litter, fly tipping, vandalism; and these become hotspots for crime and anti social behaviour as they are less cared for. People then fear to go and use them, and that 68 percent of the city which is Salford's green space, then falls into decline."
As Salford Council proposes to slash the Rangers Team, Salford Star has revealed that £150,000 of the remaining parks budget has been used to match funding for walkway and cycle routes relating to Salford University and MediaCityUK, or as a Salford Council report states "The match funding identified for the scheme relates to maintenance costs within the Irwell River Park scheme…" (see here).
In other words, if the cuts go ahead, the rangers will possibly be spending most of their time prettying up routes to MediaCityUK. Even so, this funding is only until 2015-16, so there is a chance that in three years time there will be no rangers left in Salford at all.
"We are very, very concerned about cuts to the ranger service" says Alice Searle of Friends of Kersal Moor, who has written two books on the historical and biological site of importance (SBI).
"Friends of Kersal Moor work very hard with the rangers to maintain the Moor, conserve it, keep it free of litter and to raise awareness within the community with annual events and activities. We cannot do this without the rangers. They are essential."
Indeed, at every single community event in Salford's open spaces the rangers are there, putting up marquees, running children's activities, sharing their knowledge of the environment and enthusing children to get involved.
The positive figures and statistics for the rangers' involvement are phenomenal…
Over the last twelve months they have been involved in 801 events and activities in parks attended by over 35,000 people. Events range from the Buile Hill Park Bonfire Night, to Victoria Park Christmas bandstand concerts, to Halloween happenings, health walks, training for young offenders and young people, practical conservation with volunteer groups, free Easter and summer holiday activities and environmental education sessions with schools.
They have also encouraged volunteers to give a total of 6,740 hours of their time towards parks and countryside projects and involved 8000 people in at least thirty minutes of moderate physical activity, such as health walks, volunteer activities and bat walks.
Salford Ranger Team ticks every Council box imaginable – but that counts for nothing in the nasty dark new world ahead. Expect litter strewn, overgrown parks, more muggings, less community days…or, as the Sex Pistols used to scream back in the dark days of the late seventies… No Fun. No Future.