PART of York’s hidden history could be celebrated through a community scheme at a York park.

The West Bank Park Heritage Project, which includes local residents and businesses and backed by City of York Council, is exploring ideas to improve the Holgate park, create a heritage centre and community cafe, and mark its origins and the work and life of 19th Century botanist, nursery owner and Quaker missionary James Backhouse.

The park was Backhouse’s family home and Backhouse Nurseries, which stretched across the current park site and beyond, was one of the most renowned in the north, due to its plants, rock gardens and the new species it introduced to England.

The project could forge links with the University of Tasmania because of Backhouse’s travels through Australia, as well as Mauritius and South Africa.

Coun Sonja Crisp, the council’s cabinet member for leisure, culture and tourism, will next week be asked to approve a funding bid to the Nesta Rethinking Parks innovation programme, whose partnerships with the Big Lottery and Heritage Lottery Funds provide £1 million to support projects.

She said: “The funding will enable groups to really showcase their talents and demonstrate what can be achieved locally, which could then be rolled out across the country.”

Project founder and chairman Jane Cullen said: “James Backhouse’s story is one of the untapped pieces of York’s history – being a Quaker, he was modest about his work, so it’s up to us to tell his story hundreds of years on and the time is now right to do that.”

The first stage of the application will be submitted by February 28 and, if it succeeds, a second-stage bid will be invited.

The council said the scheme could provide a template for similar community projects at other York parks.