Car-less parks feedback and popularity, case study

Cornwall Park

"While not strictly business-related, this deserves an honourable mention simply due to the mental health benefit.

I live close to Auckland’s best (personal opinion) and largest park: Cornwall Park. While the park is usually open to traffic and acts as a reluctant thoroughfare between two busy suburbs, for the duration of the lockdown the gates have been locked and the gates throughout the park left open to minimise the need to touch anything.

 

A genius move. This has created a huge open space with roads, footpaths, and the many fields available for pedestrians to spread out and ‘social distance’ themselves from others during a walk or a run after work – a much-needed reprieve from the many indoor Zoom conference calls many of us have been subjected to."

 - Tim McCready

"The Cornwall Park one is my fav because it speaks to the sort of pivots that we most need to see... the application of common sense to new situations"

 - Peter Thomson Icehouse

Getting rid of roads in parks

Why can’t Cornwall Park’s 2.7sqkm green oasis in central Auckland, and countless other parks, completely do away with vehicle access?

“The tinsel in the tragedy of COVID-19 is it has shown what our cityscapes can look, feel and sound like if we take back public spaces from combustion vehicles”

Nowadays, running through Auckland's Cornwall Park, I trace the roadway’s autumn leaf-strewn centreline, gingerly plotting my course past walkers as cyclists swish by – two metres apart, of course.

But on the weekend, this dirty great SUV came lumbering down the road. We all parted, forced onto the footpath as if we had time warped back to the old pre-lockdown order.

The SUV passed, it was park security, and everyone eased back on to the road and the temporary normal, kids on scooters, parents with prams, tranquility. All enjoying what’s become theirs.

It’s just one small step, really, to turn over Cornwall Park’s roads, and the nation’s other metropolitan parks, to people and nature.

Why can’t it stay this way, I keep asking myself? Why can’t this 2.7sqkm green oasis in central Auckland, and countless other parks, completely do away with vehicle access?

Cars are already banned from Auckland’s maunga (volcanic cones) including Cornwall Park’s Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill, and there’s been nary a complaint since it became apparent how fantastic it has been for walkers, runners and bikers.

So, it’s just one small step, really, to turn over Cornwall Park’s roads, and the nation’s other metropolitan parks, to people and nature.

Or, at the very least, to accommodate those who cannot walk, give up one of Cornwall Park’s two lanes, make the remaining lane one way, throw in some passing bays and let people have more space.

The tinsel in the tragedy of COVID-19 is it has shown what our cityscapes can look, feel and sound like if we take back public spaces from combustion vehicles.

As a country, as mostly city and town dwellers, let’s not squander this unforeseen opportunity to make some smart decisions creating a new, less congested, cleaner, people-centred normal.

 

Simon Maude

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New Zealand Parks Leaders Forum