Hundreds of residents unite to protect Berry Hill Park from closure
Berry Hill Park is a "precious place to protect with all our might".
This was the message from the Protest Against Closure of Berry Hill Park rally which took place at the park this morning (November 10).
Hundreds of Mansfield residents came together outside the Coal Industry Social Welfare Organisation (CISWO) headquarters on Berry Hill Lane to voice their opposition to proposals that could see the park close for good.
The protest was organised by Berry Hill resident Clare Dobb, a former athlete in her time who has used Berry Hill Park since she was young for athletics, sport and for time in the community.
Clare says she was "blown away" by the amount of people who turned up to the rally, and hopes that it will prick the attention of both the Trustees and the council to say that the park "will not close".
She said: "When I saw that the park was going to close I knew I had to do something - I couldn't just sit back and let it happen so I organised this protest on social media.
"It is the most iconic place in Mansfield and I can guarantee everyone in the town has been here at least a few times in their life.
"We are here today to raise awareness about the support for the park in the community, to show that residents will not stand for the closure of a park that we all love so dearly.
"I hope now that dialogue between the Trustees and the council can come to a positive conclusion which prioritises keeping the park open for the community.
"I've brought my daughter here for years training on the athletics track and, just like many other people, I want this park to survive because it is a piece of Mansfield's history.
"The proposals at the minute are just not acceptable.
"I would like to thank everybody for turning up today, only this way can we make a stand. This park must stay open and it must stay open for all of us."
A number of speeches were made at the rally, including from Councillor Sonya Ward, Labour member for Bull Farm and Pleasley, who believes the park must be protected "at all costs".
She said: "I was first contacted by a resident who lives on my street in Bull Farm, an area in the town which couldn't really be further away from the park than it is.
"I think this shows just how important the park is to residents across the town - it is not just a park but an open space for the community, it has a park, a pond, a beautiful woods and a running track, not just grass.
"It's a very important space for the community and I think we should do whatever we can and at whatever cost to protect it from closure.
"Berry Hill Park in nice weather is iconic, beautiful and we cannot see it closing because it would affect so many people."
One community group that will be affected by the closure is the Mansfield Boys Football Club, which has played its home matches on the park for a number of years.
Paul Shelton, Mansfield Boys' manager, said: "Our biggest quarrel really is with the council, not the Trustees, because they have been doing all they can to run the park for years.
"We have got an eight year contract on the park to keep playing our home games and it isn't an easy thing to just uproot a football club.
"We were given just two weeks notice that the park was going to close, we have a lot of people who pay money to help the upkeep of the pitch and this decision will affect a lot of people.
"This is not just us, everyone in the town will be affected by the closure of the park - athletics groups, football teams, families and dog walkers.
"I think we need to see a bit of dialogue now and come towards a conclusion, a direction, because it's clear closing the park is not an option for the people of Mansfield."
Other residents expressed concerns about the park closing and the proposals because of its "history and significance" in the town, having hosted the Miner's Gala and hundreds of athetics events in the past.
The most recent proposals, set out by the Trustees of Berry Hill Social Welfare Club, which has management of the park on behalf of CISWO, say that unless funds are made available or corporate support is given from Mansfield District Council, it will no longer be able to afford the upkeep of the open space.
A formal meeting between Mansfield District Council and the trustees has been scheduled for November 22, where it is expected the Trustees will ask the council to become corporate trustees of the park in order to keep it open to the public and prevent permanent closure.