Group hopes to make Cork a child-friendly city

Group hopes to make Cork a child-friendly city

Children at play during the Road Open For Play initiative at the Marina, Blackrock, Cork City. Cork Healthy Cities, which spearheaded the pedestrianisation of the Marina is setting its sights on making Cork a more child-friendly city. Picture: Michael O'Sullivan

The partnership which helped drive the pedestrianisation of Cork’s Marina amenity has now set its sights on making Cork a more child-friendly city.

The Cork Healthy Cities group also hopes to exploit the marine leisure potential of the river Lee.

These are just two of a raft of long-term aims which have been set out in the Cork Health Cities’ 10-year strategic plan, which was launched this week.

Cork Healthy Cities coordinator, Denise Cahill, said: 

“If cities are to become more liveable, these are the kinds of things that we need to start thinking about. And after Covid-19, I think there is much more openness to such ideas now.

"There has been a huge cultural shift in the last 12 months," Ms Cahill said. "It’s time to grasp the opportunities now. The potential is huge.” 

Cork was designated a World Health Organization (WHO) Healthy City in January 2012. The designation places an obligation on the local authority to commit to good health outcomes and to implement processes and structure to achieve it.

The Marina along the south bank of the Lee in Cork City has long been a popular spot for walking and running, but has been further enhanced by pedestrianisation. 	Picture: Dan Linehan
The Marina along the south bank of the Lee in Cork City has long been a popular spot for walking and running, but has been further enhanced by pedestrianisation. Picture: Dan Linehan

Cork, along with Waterford and Galway, is part of a network of more than 30 designated Healthy Cities across Europe, including Stockholm, Brussels, Rennes, and Venice, where similar work is underway to achieve good health outcomes.

The key players involved in the Cork project have spent the last decade forging partnerships between the HSE, Cork City Council, University College Cork and the community sector to work on various projects that support the development of health and the reduction of health inequalities. Ms Cahill continued: 

“We have developed a number of innovative projects from the Cork Food Policy Council, promoting a sustainable and healthy food system for the region, to Psyched, a positive mental health promotion programme for the workplace, to Green Spaces for Health which seeks to green urban areas.”

However, one of its flagship schemes was the acclaimed URBACT Playful Paradigm project which involved weekend pedestrianisation of the Marina for family play days, which ultimately led to the full pedestrianisation of the Marina, which is now earmarked for a near €4m promenade project.

Other projects have led to the development of tree trails, urban food forests, and beehives in the city centre.

The group has now published a 10-year strategic plan which sets out dozens of aims in several areas, including developing a more child-friendly city.

“If it’s child friendly, it’s friendly for everyone,” Ms Cahill said.

They will look to create more access to play opportunities, at developing car-free areas outside schools, and at ways of encouraging children into the city centre and making them feel part of city life.

Play bags have already been placed in city libraries for community groups to borrow, it is hoped that Lego clubs will be established soon, and that children will have a say in the drafting of the new city development plan.

There are also plans through the Healthy Ireland Fund to support a Naomhóga Chorcaí boat project to increase use of the river Lee, and there are plans for a ‘Cork City Walks’ initiative.

Lord Mayor Cllr Joe Kavanagh said he was proud to see the work that has been developed over the past 10 years: 

“I am prouder still of the comprehensive work plan that has been set out for the next 10 years.”

The WHO has categorised urbanisation as one of the key challenges for public health in the 21st century, with warnings that cities can pose unique health risks such as air and traffic pollution, and areas of high-density deprivation.

Cork is set to become one of the fastest-growing city regions in Ireland over the next 20-years.

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