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Young offenders scheme reaps rewards at Leavesden Park
Young offenders are "giving something back to the community" by taking part in conservation work at Leavesden Park.
As part of a council-led scheme, offenders with low level criminal records take part in the Youth Probation Services and Community Payback Scheme, planting, building and cultivating the park.
Councillor Keith Williams, head of leisure at Three Rivers District council, said: "It’s all about offenders giving something back to the community and doing some good services.
"Part of the theory behind it is to give the young people some kind of ownership over the park and what’s inside it. If one of them was convicted of vandalism, they can come back and clean it up and build something, and then maybe it will deter them from doing it again. Hopefully they will think ‘I built that so I am not going to smash it up again’.
"It’s all about getting young people involved in the park and the community and it’s partly a preventative scheme too, hopefully it will stop them from doing it again and stop this kind of rebellion."
The park has worked with the Young Probation Services for a number of years, but the scheme is now headed up by park ranger, Damien Weller.
Work has included planting rattle, which kills off grass naturally and creates space for wildflowers to grow, as well as butterfly-friendly flowers. Workers have also created "bee-hotels" out of submerged tree trunks.
Mr Weller said: "They have a history of working here and when they approached me, I thought it was a really good scheme and something I wanted to get involved in that could benefit the local community. We’ve made bee hotels and I’ve taught them how to fell trees. I try to keep them engaged and interested because the more they get out of it, the more they will put into it."
The offenders take part in three hour sessions on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Mr Weller said that the young people mostly come from Hertfordshire.
He added: "Last year we had a little less than 1,500 hours of work, and this year we seem to be doing even more. We are very well supported by the two organisations and with their support and the help of the scheme we get a lot more done."
Leavesden Park has recently also been re-awarded with the Green Flag award and Mr Weller said: "I don’t know whether we’d manage to get the Green Flag without schemes like this one."
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