How a Walking Strategy Can Deliver on Wellbeing and Green Recovery4th January 2021
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused us to live and work differently, to understand better the importance of health and wellbeing, behave more sustainably, and to envisage a better, greener future. Going forward, improving people’s engagement with the outdoors will be crucial to wellbeing and a green recovery – and enabling happier, healthier, connected communities.
Increasing walking as part of everyday life will benefit everyone in Northern Ireland – and key to this is improving access to, participation in, and connection to nature as outlined in two targets of the Green Growth Strategy and Delivery Framework:
- Delivering measurable and population-wide improvements in wellbeing, focusing on educational, social and economic benefits associated with the connection between people and their environment.
- Developing natural green connectors and corridors across cities, towns and landscapes, connecting people and their environment.
What Do We Know?
What Do We Need to Know?
The report outlines that the key enabler to achieving happy, healthy, connected communities is a Walking Strategy for Northern Ireland, and it outlines it would contribute to government priority areas such as health and wellbeing, environment, tackling inequality, growing the economy, and increasing active travel.
We currently have an unparalleled opportunity to increase the number of people who are physically active outdoors and Northern Ireland has outstanding potential for walking both in urban and rural areas. However, as the research shows, there are long-standing barriers that need addressed.
The challenge for the Northern Ireland Executive is to tackle these barriers by developing and implementing a cross-departmental Walking Strategy. There are 3 Strategic Outputs that should be built into the Walking Strategy – these are highly cost-effective and will reap long-term savings:
- Council-wide Community Trail Plans
- An NI-wide ‘Walking for All’ initiative
- A new Outdoor Recreation Bill for Northern Ireland.