Parks are fantastic community assets with vibrant, inclusive and accessible spaces of great benefit to people’s physical and mental wellbeing.
In fact, a recently published report by Fields in Trust revealed parks contribute over £32 billion per year in wellbeing benefits. You can read more about its fascinating research here.
However most of the time the digital presence of parks is anything but inspiring! It’s often the case that you’ll find little more than a few scant details on facilities and car parking tucked away in an unloved corner of a website.
Back in 2016 a partnership of Hertfordshire Councils set out to put things right and pooled their resources to commission a revolutionary digital platform to inspire the enjoyment of parks and promote their wellbeing benefits.
Following a competitive process, the partnership appointed Cyber Media, a web developer specialising in engagement projects, to turn the vision into reality.
The project was fronted by Liz Gore and Aaron Niblett from Hertsmere Borough Council.
As a Parks Project Officer, Aaron lives, works and breathes parks and open spaces. Liz, on the other hand, has a wealth of experience from her work as a Policy Manager in the Public Health sphere.
What makes ParksHerts so innovative is the successful collaboration of multiple Council departments to simultaneously address two key objectives at district and County level. ParksHerts enables the effective online promotion of parks and at the same time promotes enjoyment of healthier lifestyles.
Like all successful engagement platforms, ParksHerts kicked off with a broad range of discovery and User-Experience Design activities. Along the way a diverse range of consultation activities were carried out, including face-to-face engagement with stakeholders and online surveys.
From the research the ParksHerts project was able to focus on the things that really matter to users as well as presenting the online offer in a non-judgmental, friendly and approachable way.
ParksHerts has transformed the promotion of parks in Hertfordshire.
Gone are the days of monochrome, text-heavy descriptions. Instead online visitors are welcomed by a vibrant platform that maximises the appeal of park facilities, points of interest and exercise routes.
The research undertaken and user-focused design makes for a great experience for park visitors - whether they’re there for time with the kids, a day out in the fresh air, or to blow the cobwebs away on a vigorous cross park run. And smartphone-friendly, location-aware maps augment and enhance the park visit experience.
It’s not just end users who benefit though - the participating Councils are benefitting from greater visitor interest and have a new highly cost-effective tool in their armoury to encourage healthier lifestyles.
Park teams also have access to valuable statistics and the platform enables both digital footfall and physical footfall to be measured thanks to features that detect when a user is using the platform within park boundary.
It’s great to see that the attention to detail, energy and enthusiasm that’s made ParksHerts possible is getting noticed.
Recently Liz and Aaron were invited to present ParksHerts at the Behavioural Science and Public Health Network.
ParksHerts has also featured at Green Flag Award events and was an Association of Public Service Excellence finalist.
Parks are for everyone and are nationally important resources. There isn’t just a need in Hertfordshire - there’s a need to effectively promote parks up and down the country.
That’s why following the launch of the project the Partnership and Cyber Media regrouped for a new mission - creating an off-the-shelf platform that’s easy to implement and affordable.
HelloParks is a cloud-based platform for Councils and other organisations to effectively promote their parks and open spaces in a hassle-free, cost-effective way.
If you think your organisation could be the next partner in the digital parks journey, we would love to hear from you.