Mini parks popped up in parking spaces across Cork city today and a school transformed a road into a playground as cars gave way for a day.
As part of European Mobility Week, the day-long PARK(ing) initiative was coordinated by Cork City Council and the Transport and Mobility Forum, and was supported by Cork County Council, Healthy Ireland and the Cork Age Friendly Programme.
Artists, designers and citizens joined forces to transform paid parking spots into temporary public parks in city-centre locations including Douglas St, South Mall, North Main St and Western Rd, as well as in towns like Cobh, Clonakilty, Mitchelstown and Fermoy.
Since its inception in 2005, the PARK(ing) concept has spread globally to reclaim spaces normally devoted to cars for social exchange and recreation.
O’Donovans Hotel in Clonakilty created a bicycle-themed parklet. Cobh’s Seasalt Café worked with Cobh Allotments and local fitness guru Trevor Cummins to celebrate health and wellness in their parklet directly in front of their premises.
Mitchelstown Business Association member, Claudia Matassa, created a parklet outside her Pizza House premises on Lower Cork street, while Grainne O’Connor, of Crayon Creative and the Fermoy Forum, used her design flair to create a gnome-themed parklet entitled ‘Gnomansland’ on the town’s main street.
In Cork city, the HSE’s Health Promotion Unit the Western Road created a parklet outside their offices, while Douglas St boasted two parklets, one outside Bia Blasta and The People’s Parklet, which hosted a flower arranging demo at 4pm as part of Culture Night.
The Imperial Hotel also served coffee and scones in their parklet outside the landmark hotel on South Mall while North Main St traders worked with the management of the Vision Centre to create a lively pop up parklet on their street.
Earlier, St Catherine’s School in Bishopstown closed off part of the road outside their school to create a healthy, safe, and playful environment.
Families were encouraged to walk, cycle, scoot, take the bus or park and stride to school while community coaches from Cork Local Sports Partnership and parent volunteers organised street games outside.
“We hope to demonstrate to parents that in many cases it's more fun and quicker to walk or cycle, even for the last few blocks to school, rather than dropping children to the door of the school. It's a small bit of exercise and often a great opportunity for parent-child chats,” said Ruth McLauchlan, treasurer of the Parent’s Association.
“If more parents did so, it would reduce congestion around school and reduce air pollution. We apologise to local residents for inconveniencing them, but believe that the long-term effect will be lower traffic levels and a healthier environment for everyone, and especially the children.”
Denise Cahill, the coordinator Cork Healthy Cities, which leads the European-funded Playful Cork City initiative in the city, said there is a growing body of evidence on the health impacts of car fumes on the health of children, as well as growing levels of sedentary transportation of children to school.
We’re keen to seek pragmatic and effective solutions for parents, schools and children to the congestion at school gates, to reduce exposure to car fumes and of course to increase physical activity and exposure to play among children.
Cork has secured European funding to promote play as a means of promoting social inclusion over the next three years.
Ms Cahill said Playful Cork City will support new inner-city and urban play spaces, traffic will be restricted on some streets for pop-up play events, and the libraries will support local communities to host play events.