A Message from Linda Lennon
Date posted: Friday 30th November 2012
Linda Lennon, CEO of Royal Parks Agency
Thanks to Linda Lennon, Chief Executive of the Royal Parks Agency who contributed this article to the FBHP Newsletter and website.
My love affair with The Royal Parks began as a small child in the late 60s/early 70s when after a morningâ€™s fishing at Sunbury, my dad used to take me into Bushy Park. Here we would look for woodpeckers, beetles and deer in that order. Whenever American or Canadian cousins came to visit we would visit Bushy or neighbouring Richmond for picnics under the broad leafed trees. They are amongst my most cherished memories and helped instil in me a love of wildlife at all levels. Even to this day, when I am abroad in Mediterranean climes, I will scour swimming pools at night and fish out hapless moths and bugs who have been attracted to the night time lights. Gerald Durrell was my favourite author and I always used to hope to see an exotic Colobus monkey swinging gracefully through the trees, but to no avail.
As a result, I have developed what can best be described as a passion for wildlife and conservation. So the honour of being the CEO of The Royal Parks is really the icing on the cake. It is an amazing job and one in which I am surrounded by passionate and committed people who form part of The Royal Parks team or are involved in Friends Groups and other partnership activities. For example, one day I may be discussing habitats with the RSPB and what can be done to encourage dwindling species and on another I might be talking about the health of our trees or water quality. These issues and so many more, go right to the heart of one of our two core objectives: to conserve and enhance the natural and built environments , historic landscapes and the biodiversity of the Royal Parks for future generations . I know some people donâ€™t understand, but finding a new species of gnat at Bushy is an amazing success story in my eyes.
Another success story this year has been The Royal Parksâ€™ involvement in the highly successful Diamond Jubilee celebrations and hosting of 11 Olympic and Paralympic events. The latter saw us shortlisted down to the final four of more than 120 applicants for an Olympic Team award and although we didnâ€™t win, I was so very, very proud of all that had been achieved. Who can forget the wonderful images of cyclists, triathletes, marathon runners and even race walkers, going through our parks or the equestrian events at Greenwich? I am also very grateful to the numbers of Friends and volunteers who turned out to help protect our parks during these events, helping with stewarding, protecting sensitive areas and giving out information.
Our other core objective is: to deliver better value for money and explore commercial activities, as due to a diminishing grant, The Royal Parks needs to raise income itself, to help protect and conserve the parks. This is in itself is a huge challenge and we are constantly on the look-out for new ideas to generate income in a way which will still enable us to achieve balance. Currently we welcome some 40 million visitors a year to our parks â€“some are attracted by the wildlife; others to sporting events or concerts and some take part in fun runs or organised walks or commute through on cycles, horses and by foot. Some with their dogs are regular users; others come to keep fit and still more come just to walk or sit and admire what nature has to offer. Catering for such a diverse range of needs â€“ and I have only mentioned a few â€“ is a real challenge, as is building on those visits to generate income. Licences for filming and fishing; fees for events ; rentals for lodges and concessions such as cafÃ©s and boats; and working with our charity The Royal Parks Foundation, all help to bridge that funding gap.
All in all, it makes for an incredibly diverse and challenging job and I would like to conclude just by thanking the staff and Friends of Bushy Park for all their support and commitment