Sutcliffe Park earns a healthy return (25th August 2005)

Sutcliffe Park earns a healthy return (25th August 2005)

A new study has revealed the health benefits of the recently restored park.

It should be no surprise that when the Environment Agency chose to assess the health benefits of its environmental improvement work that the recent flood alleviation scheme in Sutcliffe Park was selected as one of its two case studies. Neither should its conclusion – that relatively small scale environmental improvements bring significant health benefits to local communities.

The Environment Agency were testing the concept that regular physical activity and contact with nature reduces the risk of serious illness, and improves quality of life and mental well being – and that physical activity within a natural environment (“green exercise”) may bring additional benefits. In a survey of park users, participants were asked about their physical activity habits, health and self-esteem. They were then asked why they used the park before and after restoration, and what they thought was special about the park.

Why people use the park
Before restoration the most common reason for visiting the park was dog walking. Now over two thirds of park users come to exercise. People are more than twice as likely to visit for ‘health’ reasons, such as fresh air or walking. The numbers visiting for ‘scenery’ and ‘wildlife’ reasons have also shown dramatic increases.

Why people think the park is special
The presence of water (30%) and the wildlife (24%) are the main reasons why people think the park is special, followed by the landscape and views (18%) and the exercise and recreation opportunities (10%). No fewer than 83% of visitors feel differently about the park now the River Quaggy runs through it. They cite increased biodiversity, better opportunities for recreation, and the peacefulness and relaxation of being near water.

Restored riverbank

Restored riverbank

Conclusion
The study shows that relatively small scale environmental improvements bring significant health benefits to local communities. After restoration more people visited more often, stayed longer, and were more likely to visit for exercise and health. And analysis showed that visitors’ self-esteem increased the longer they spent exercising in the natural environment.

The flood alleviation scheme adopted for Sutcliffe Park resulting in the restoration of the river and its flood plain is the direct result of a long, ongoing campaign by QWAG. The study’s conclusion is further proof of QWAG’s belief that by restoring the Quaggy we can bring wildlife, education, amenity and beauty into the fabric of our urban environment.

The case study was commissioned by the Environment Agency. The final report will be available soon via the Environment Agency website.

QWAG wishes to thank the Environment Agency for permission to reproduce excerpts from its report.

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