IT’S hard to believe four-and-a-bit years have passed since the dreich February day when I watched Chris Packard, above, wielding a big spade and wearing a big smile as he started off Hermitage Park’s regeneration.

The project isn’t quite finished yet. But it is a joy to see another piece of the jigsaw fall into place with the big reveal in last week's Advertiser, of Helensburgh’s own Jamie Nicolson as the man who’ll be running the cafe – or the takeaway kiosk, as it will be at least at first – at the park’s new pavilion.

Covid isn’t the only stumbling block to have affected the park project since 2017. But the sighs of relief, from its owners, Argyll and Bute Council, from its supporters and from local residents, now that an end is in sight at last, are well justified.

It’s been wonderful to see Hermitage Park, and open spaces in general, so well used during the pandemic. Only last week we filled two full pages of the Advertiser with pictures of happy, smiling people simply getting out in the open air and enjoying their local park.

READ MORE: Helensburgh chef unveils cafe and kiosk plans for Hermitage Park pavilion

Soon, though, the £3.7 million regeneration project will come to an end. The true test of the project’s success can only be measured after that. Public spaces don’t look after themselves, after all, and the reserves of council cash to do the job are not limitless.

And while not every public space is lucky enough to have as dedicated and enthusiastic a band of volunteer supporters as the Friends of Hermitage Park, our local government masters must not be allowed to rely on that, or to pass the buck to the Friends, or anyone else, in the event of something not being quite right.

For now, though, in the park, as in Helensburgh and across the country, the focus, rightly, is on brighter days ahead.

Enjoy them – and, if you haven’t been doing so already, enjoy the park. It’s one of the most sparkling jewels in Helensburgh’s crown and it deserves your love.