Dubliners are to be “paid” for a walk in the park with “Civic Dollars” they can cash in for coffee and cake and other goods and services, in an effort to encourage outdoor exercise.
Visitors to five parks in the Dublin 8 area can earn the community currency if they sign up for a new smart phone app to allow Dublin City Council to track their park use.
The scheme is being piloted in the area from the Liberties to Inchicore, following research by the council's Smart D8 team which found just 40 per cent of local residents took regular exercise, but 92 per cent said they would use a park for exercise if it was available to them.
Visitors to St Audoen's Park, St Patrick's Park, Weaver Park and Oscar Square in the Liberties, and Grattan Park in Inchicore who use the app will be rewarded with Civic Dollars for every 30 minutes they spend in the park up to a limit of 5 dollars a day.
The system uses GPS data and allows users to opt in once they enter a park. Their data is anonymised, and a user’s session will end automatically once they walk out of the park. Data gathered will be used by the council to analyse park usage and allow for future planning and infrastructure improvements.
The dollars can be cashed in for discounts in a number of local businesses including Little Bird cafe, the Bike Hub, Mobility Genie, the Digital Hub and Epic Ireland. The dollars can also be donated to community organisations for more expensive services including marketing or IT advice and legal consultations, with participating companies including Core Tech IT, Paul Saxon Consulting, Éire Graphic Design and VAVA Influencers.
The Smart D8 project was established earlier this year to investigate innovative approaches to improve citizens’ health and wellbeing in Dublin 8, with the involvement of St James’s Hospital and the Digital Hub.
The Civic Dollars pilot will run for five months, with the aim of attracting 1,000 users in the first two months, and could be rolled out to other parks in the city if successful.
Organisations accepting dollar donations include Warrenmount Community Education Centre, Robert Emmet Community Development Project, Solas Project and Fatima Groups United.
The scheme had the potential to "improve the health and wellbeing of our citizens", Lord Mayor of Dublin Alison Gilliland said.
“We need to encourage increased use of our parks, and the Civic Dollars project will do that while having the added benefit of contributing to local businesses and community organisations.”