The Nayong Pilipino Foundation is eager to build its Creative and Cultural Hub surrounded by native trees. Planning shall be guided by an interdisciplinary research team to ensure that people from all walks of life can enjoy nature and culture.

NPF Creative and Cultural Hub to be in an Urban Forest Park_Final
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Coming off from a productive 2020, the Nayong Pilipino Foundation (NPF) opened 2021 with an online lecture titled “Beyond Leisure and Recreation: the Importance of Urban Park Guidelines.” This event was in partnership with the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) of DENR.

Last January 25, 2021, Dr. Lynlei Pintor—Section Chief of the Urban Parks and Recreational Areas Research and Development at ERDB-DENR presented the research findings of her team across the pilot sites of the DENR-ERDB.

Dr. Pintor began her presentation by first establishing why it is important to have green areas in cities. “Urban parks play a vital and dynamic role in urban life by providing a natural, pastoral environment where the people in the city could escape the hustle and bustle of city life,” stated Dr. Pintor. She further explained that visiting urban parks can offer a temporary getaway from the crowded streets and enclosed buildings. Additionally, parks located within the city also helps in mitigating urban environmental pollution.

According to Dr. Pintor, she and her team from the ERDB oversaw tests and surveys in many park sites across the country, namely in Batangas City, Cebu City, Iloilo City, and Naga City. They conducted 100% inventory in these study sites during the wet and dry season, collected soil samples, and surveyed 800 park visitors across 15 different parks.  These studies resulted in the development of the Urban Park Guidelines.

“The objective of the Park guideline is to provide guidelines to better establish and manage an urban park that supports the vision, goals, and policies aligned with the Local Government Unit’s (LGU) thrusts and mandates,” explained Dr. Pintor.

Moving forward to the core of her presentation, Dr. Pintor then enumerated the guidelines they have established.

First of which is to set the goals and objectives on why the park will be developed. This is to specify the purpose of the urban park, whether it’s for recreation, habitat preservation, historical awareness, or other events and community gatherings. This can be used as the basis for the amenities that need to be incorporated.

Following this is the assessment of the community’s needs. This can be done by gathering data regarding the socio-economic characteristics of the people in the city because it will serve as the baseline information in designing the next guideline which is the park plan.

“The park plan serves as the ‘bible’ or the road map in terms of park provision,” said Dr. Pintor. And because it is prepared through data gathering from the community, it uses a “bottom-up approach” that ascertains the needs of the people most likely visiting the future park. “Otherwise, if hindi natin alam ang mga needs nila, walang influx of park visitors.”

One of the guidelines is also establishing an administrative structure—allotting an annual budget for the operation and management of the urban park. After this comes the action program, wherein the timeline, financial sources, and tasks needed to be accomplished are finalized. By this stage, the projects, goals, and objectives agreed upon during the planning are already set and identified. Dr. Pintor also expressed that when funds for the project are limited, the organization can call out to the public and elicit community participation by volunteering to help in the management of the park. She mentioned a certain park in Cebu City where volunteers help during the weekends to maintain the safety of park-goers.

Visual and aesthetic aspects such as the park design and amenities are also part of the guidelines. These elements help promote ease of access.

Dr. Pintor advised incorporating simple curves in the path alignment. This is to prevent individuals from taking shortcuts and stepping on the grass areas. She also suggested making the paths and walkways PWD-friendly by making them wider, ensuring that two wheelchairs can pass at the same time. Incorporating ramps with proper steepness was also recommended

Additionally, Dr. Pintor highlighted that benches should also be accessible to strollers and wheelchair users by connecting them to the cemented area. There must also be a pathway that leads to the comfort room and tree trunks should not block the view of the park. “Sayang naman ‘yong beauty ng park if we will not regularly trim the trees and the plants sa park,” she said.

Having paved trails in the park is also encouraged as many park-goers like to engage in physical activities such as brisk walking and jogging. Other amenities mentioned are multipurpose fields, gymnasiums, gazebos, comfort rooms, and smoking areas.

However, Dr. Pintor emphasized that the amenities included should always depend on the size and budget allocated for the park.

Dr. Pintor also presented a list of flora that can be planted in urban parks depending on their climatic type. She also encouraged the use of indigenous plant species in order to achieve bird conservation. According to her, habitats that are dominated by exotic vegetation cause a low harbor for insects and insect prey, resulting in low bird density.

The final guideline discussed by Dr. Pintor is to promote crime prevention through environmental design. This includes surveillance devices, pedestrian routes being well lit especially during the night time, and security guards assigned in the area.

After her presentation, Dr. Pintor then answered questions and inquiries both from the registered audience and from NPF.

One of the questions posted is regarding the impact of building the Nayong Pilipino Foundation urban forest park in a very dense city like Parañaque.

“There are ecological benefits,” answered Dr. Pintor. “It will provide habitat for a variety of birds, animals, insects, and other organisms.” She also explained how having an urban park can prevent soil erosion and absorb water thus improving the city’s drainage. Trees can also absorb pollutants in Parañaque. Dr. Pintor shared that only 20 trees are needed to offset the pollution from a car driven 60 miles per day. “How much more if 70% of [NPF’s] 9-hectare property will be planted [with trees]!”

Dr. Pintor also shared her insights on the Generation Restoration campaign initiated by the United Nations in light of SGD 11—having the mission goal of “Mak[ing] cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient, and sustainable.”

“I’ve read that the target is the youth—instilling to their young minds the importance of trees in cities amidst unfolding ecological catastrophes,” she said. Dr. Pintor stated that one major challenge she can foresee for this campaign is the conservation of urban green spaces, restoring urban ecosystems, and reforesting sustainable lands. She described these aspects as essential in undergoing transition to a sustainable pathway for economies and societies at the required speed and scale. However, she is hopeful that once this campaign begins people will have a sense of ownership in protecting the urban ecosystem by simply participating in tree planting projects and river clean-ups.

The ERDB has been giving different forms of technical assistance to NPF since December last year. Their team visited the NPf site several times to collect soils for analysis so that the NPF can finally start its dream of having an urban forest park on its property in Parañaque.

The NPF is eager to build its Creative and Cultural Hub surrounded by native trees. Planning shall be guided by an interdisciplinary research team to ensure that people from all walks of life can enjoy nature and culture.

Before the event drew to a close, NPF Deputy Executive Director for Operations Dr. Laya Boquiren introduced “Project Sambayanihan” and the activities NPF has in store for 2021, which consists of various public lectures, roundtable discussions, workshops, bird watching, and even site visits to further push forward its advocacy of mainstreaming biodiversity conservation. This will include trail identification simulations to determine the most optimal pathways NPF can create for the site and get started on its urban forest. Project Sambayanihan also offers different partnership and volunteer opportunities.

This lecture shall also be published in the first iteration of NPF’s Podcast Series, called “Dunong”—an avenue in which NPF can highlight its initiatives by listening to thought leaders, partners, and discipline specialists in order to mainstream natural and cultural heritage and promote cultural and sustainable tourism.

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