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Unlocking the gates after COVID-19
As we unlocked our doors after Alert Levels 3 and 4 of our COVID-19 pandemic response we were grateful.
But some of us were also a little melancholy.
Because, for all the closely-averted horror that COVID-19 threatened, and for all the impositions on our freedom that the lockdown cure imposed, there were also some good moments.
For many people, those good moments involved slowing down. They were about spending time outside, in their neighbourhood with people they love.
If you had job security, a safe healthy home to isolate in and people in your bubble who loved you, the COVID-19 lockdown was not entirely bad. Many New Zealanders didn't have those things. And for them, the lockdown exacerbated the struggles they face each day.
But for the lucky among us, we learned that when we strip our life back to its bare essentials then daily exercise, walking, was one of those essentials.
Without shopping, without cafes, and cinemas and bars, without deadlines and distractions and destinations, we went walking.
It was affirming.
Walking brought solace. And even joy.
At the Walking Access Commission this experience confirmed for us something we already believed — that we need good local public access to the outdoors, wherever we are.
People don't just need big multi-day tracks and trails in towering mountains and swooping fiords. We also need short little trails on the same block as our house. We need to visit little streams. We need to feed local ducks. And we need to see our community as a place worth walking through.
If we can choose to keep just the good things from the lockdown then one of the things we save should be that lesson.
We need to reimagine our neighbourhoods linked together by a spiderweb of trails. Trails that take walkers, runners, children on bikes. Trails that go from houses to shops, schools, and jobs. But they should also take people to streams and ducks.
Sometimes that means we will need to redesign our neighbourhoods. And when we build new neighbourhoods we need to make sure that a good spiderweb of trials is the first thing that goes on the map.
But sometimes that foundations of that spiderweb already exists between fences and behind backyards. And we just need to rediscover it, to enhance it and help it grow.
Many neighbourhood community planting groups, trails trusts and local councils are already doing great work. The next step is to link all those paths together into the bigger spiderwebs that connect people with their communities.