Safe and inclusive parks in the Johannesburg inner-city

Safe and inclusive parks in the Johannesburg inner-city – Be inspired

In a nutshell

The End Street North Park upgrade pilot project demonstrates an integrated stakeholder approach to public space design and management. It involves sector contributions from different city departments as well as engagement with city residents and other park users in designing a safe, inclusive and sustainable public space though participatory tools and methods. The project aims to develop a sound governance model for integrated urban development that can be used in the City of Johannesburg and possibly in other South African cities as well.

Please find out more about the lessons learned here.  

What we do

The City of Johannesburg lacks open spaces and parks to cater for its existing and rapidly increasing population. This rise in population in the inner-city has caused a strain on its limited amount of open spaces and parks, with park spaces in particular being over-utilised and rapidly degenerating in physical condition. As a result, Johannesburg’s inner-city parks have increasingly become perceived as chaotic, unsafe and undesirable spaces used for illicit activities such as gambling and drug trade.

End Street North Park, located in Doornfontein, a former industrial district in the inner-city of Johannesburg, has been earmarked for a physical upgrade. It is now the ground for developing and testing an integrated approach to park development and management with a strong focus on community participation involving local residents, institutions, businesses and possibly related NGOs.

The End Street North Park Upgrade project aims to develop a public open spaces and safety strategy as well as a practical set of guidelines for participatory park upgrading and integrated management - leading towards improving the quality of inner-city public open spaces with a focus on safety. Through the project we have engaged residents and other park users in the process of designing a safe, accessible, inclusive and sustainable public space through participatory tools and methods.

The project is a joint partnership between Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo (JCPZ) (Project leader), Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), Johannesburg City Safety Programme (JCSP), Inner City Road Map office, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Inclusive Violence and Crime Prevention Programme (VCP) as well as the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), who were involved in the project to facilitate the use of "MineCraft" as a virtual ICT (video game) community participation tool for public space design.

Sticky Situations, a community participation organisation, also facilitated multi-stakeholder engagement and mapping and has played a key role in understanding the activities within the park and its users, as well as planning and implementing programmes focused on promoting active community participation in the park in its current planning phase.

How we do it

The park upgrade process involved vigorous back and forth stages of on-site analysis, brainstorming, project mapping and stakeholder engagement from both city departments and community members. Some major steps along the way included:

Understanding current reality:

  • Analysis of Parks Customer Satisfaction Surveys
  • Numerous site visits and needs assessments on inner-city parks
  • Selection of the case study pilot site: End Street North Park

Facilitating key stakeholder brainstorming session

  • Planning and project design brainstorming session
  • Establish task team, define roles
  • Develop project roadmap and next steps

Project mapping, implementation and management

  • Assignment of project roles and responsibilities, scope of works, tasks and detailed activities
  • Appointment of Sticky Situations to implement stakeholder mapping
  • Commencement of information collection, collation and assessments
  • Establish procedures for the integration of End Street North Park into the park upgrading broader strategy

Pilot: Case Study

  • Stakeholder mapping
  • Safety assessments within the park
  • MineCraft public participation sessions (facilitated by UN-Habitat)
  • Park and community activation (through regular events/activities in the park)
  • Facilitating community policing forum and street committees

Implementation Plan

  • Development of key interventions and recommendations
  • Mapping current and proposed institutional model and processes to close gaps
  • Propose governance model to support management of public open spaces

What we have achieved

The project has so far managed to undertake various community-based activities in the park that include a MineCraft workshop and weekend ‘Park Activation’ activities such as a “Meet your Neighbour” event and a boxing tournament that aimed at bringing residents together through games and learning exercises.

The MineCraft workshop, through the help of the UN-Habitat Public Space Programme and the Tshimololong precinct (TechnoHub), was conducted in November 2015 over a period of two days. Residents, school children, neighbouring stakeholders and users of End Street North Park were trained to use and ‘play’ with the Minecraft tool and used it to easily design their own vision of what facilities and activities they would like to have in the park.

The engagements with the community have contributed positively towards the planning and conceptualising phase of the project. A draft design of the park upgrade is one of the products that have come out of the community engagement so far (particularly through the MineCraft Workshop) and the community will continue to play a part even towards the upcoming implementation of the park upgrade.

The contributions of the multiple city stakeholder departments will also continue to feed into the implementation of the park upgrade, particularly in implementing the post-handover (collaborative) management structure, between various city departments and the community that has been proposed for the park. The project team will continue to engage other relevant government stakeholders to feed into the implementation of the physical upgrade and management of the park. This also includes continued support to the community in using and conducting activities in the park, to ensure that the park continues to be an actively used and liveable space in the Doornfontein area.

What we have learned

Whilst the park’s proposed upgrade and management model is hoped to considerably improve the neighbourhood and its public spaces, there are various challenges that come to the fore when engaging with park users and surrounding communities. These challenges include, amongst others:

  • conflicting views/desires regarding the park;
  • limited cooperation from communities and city stakeholders; and
  • limited funds/resources for implementation of all desired facilities in park.

The task of park design and management is a difficult one to carry out in the inner-city of Johannesburg. It has become clear that to plan and implement the recommended participation processes for inner-city park improvements will require increased resources within JCPZ and all the stakeholders involved in the design and management of the park.

Though the availability of these resources is scarce we have learnt that it is beneficial to invest in the collaborative park design or upgrade process. This creates a sense of ownership amongst park users, reducing cases of vandalism, theft and other illicit activities in the park. This it saves resources in the medium and long-term - and it contributes to increased social cohesion and development in the inner-city’s communities.

Please find out more about the lessons learned here.  

Map point

Safe and inclusive parks in the Johannesburg inner-city
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