We need to reopen the park car parks. Keeping them closed is dangerous and discriminatory…

After two months, I was getting a bit fed up walking around my small local park, so yesterday I decided to bring junior up to Lady Dixon Park for a change of scene.

As you may know, they decided at the start of the lockdown to keep parks open but close their car parks. The idea was to discourage people from driving to parks. This was not based on any science, but tabloid mock hysteria about people having the audacity to lie on the grass sunbathing.

Because the car park was closed, I was greeted with the sight of dozens of cars parked on the pavement.

I don’t blame the drivers, as the car park is closed they have no choice but to park here. Because cars are parked on the pavement, this means that people are forced to walk along a busy road often with children, as shown by the photo I took of a mother passing us with a twin buggy.

The other day I saw a family with three small children having to cross four lanes of heavy traffic on Stockmans Lane to get into Musgrave Park. The last few weeks a lot of people have been complaining on social media about cars parked on pavements, but what do you expect people to do when the car park is closed? People are asking for the cops to ticket drivers, as if wanting a walk in a park has suddenly became a crime. Parks like Lady Dixon are on the outskirts of Belfast, the only practical way to get there is by car.

As well as being dangerous, keeping the car parks closed is also discriminatory. It stops older people and disabled people being able to use our parks. It also discriminates against people who do not have gardens or access to parks within walking distance of their homes.

But what about social distancing I hear you ask? Well below is a photo I took of the inside of the park, more than enough room for everyone. You can get 200metres apart never mind two. Even if you reopen the car park and you get more users, Lady Dixon is 130 acres; it is enormous. I am a regular park user and apart from special occasions like Rose Week, our local parks are never at capacity.

The chances of catching the virus outside are incredibly small. Any risk is more than offset by the mental and physical benefits of having a dander in our lovely parks.

We are told we can go back to work, we can shop, we can pray, we can go to a garden centre, but we still can’t enjoy the outdoors? This is madness.

We need to reopen the car parks of our parks, forests, beaches and other amenities now.