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78 of the best managed parks and open spaces in Northern Ireland have be recognised with a Green Flag Award.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful, the environmental charity that runs the scheme in Northern Ireland, revealed an ever growing and diverse number of free to enjoy places that have been awarded a prestigious Green Flag Award. The Green Flag Award is an internationally recognised certification for environmental quality management for parks and open spaces.

This year more people that ever took the opportunity to enjoy parks and open spaces across Northern Ireland. For many these sites provided an essential service during lockdown, offering up safe space to exercise and connect with nature. Access to quality recreational space has a number of benefits for people in Northern including improved physical and mental health and the opportunity to learn about our environment.

Dr Ian Humphreys, Chief Executive of Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful said:

“Northern Ireland’s parks and open spaces play a hugely important role in supporting our local communities, both in terms of providing recreational space but also for supporting health and wellbeing. This has been highlighted now more than ever as our parks and open spaces provided a haven to many during the difficult lockdown period. It is fantastic to see such a high number of sites in Northern Ireland meeting the international standard for excellence.”

Parks and open spaces wishing to achieve Green Flag status must have a site management plan in place and be able to demonstrate they comply with a range of strict criteria including horticultural standards, cleanliness, environmental management, biodiversity, community involvement and safety standards. The Awards are judged annually by a panel of experts, who volunteer their time to assess the management plans and the applicant sites through a rigorous judging process.

For the 2020/21 season, Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful saw a continued increase in public parks, gardens, country parks, cemeteries and green spaces meeting the demanding standards.

Stormont Estate was amongst 7 sites which also received a Green Flag Heritage Award. This award recognises the parks and open spaces which celebrate and promote the elements of their heritage that make them unique. The other parks recognised with a Heritage award were; Antrim Castle Gardens, Brooke Park, Belfast Botanic Gardens, Queen’s University Belfast, Sentry Hill Historic House and Visitor Centre and Warrenpoint Municiple Park.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful also celebrates The Green Flag Community Award, which recognises sites managed and maintained by loyal volunteers working at a local level. This year Shellinghill Park and Millennium Path received its first Green Flag Community Award alongside Ballyeaston Church Ruin, Rathfern Activity Centre, Sentry Hill Community Garden and Toome Linear Park.

Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful will be celebrating our award winning parks and open spaces through a social media campaign the week beginning Monday 12 October. Please consider following us on Twitter and Facebook to see the impact of our programme

If you are interested in finding out further information about the Green Flag Award or other programmes run by Keep Northern Ireland Beautiful please e-mail us on enquiries@keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org or check out our website www.keepnorthernirelandbeautiful.org.