In 2018 we announced the latest group of projects to be awarded grants from the Rethinking Parks fund. In this round, we were looking for organisations and partnerships who were well placed to replicate and adapt the most promising approaches to help run parks more sustainably, drawing from what they had seen others implement or test elsewhere.
Five months on, Par Track Ltd are introducing us to their project, Re-imagining Par Track – Run, Ride, Relax, Repeat, the model that inspired them, their partnerships and their objective.
Below is Jon's introduction to the project:
What's the idea?
Par Track is a running track and community park, recently taken into community ownership with exciting plans to develop the facilities on offer. At the centre of our plan is a social prescribing project supporting the local community to become more active and healthy.
Par Track is a fantastic facility - in Par, Cornwall - that has been falling short of its potential in recent years. To rectify this we are building a community business to help it reach its full potential. We are creating new facilities such as an outdoor fitness trail, pump track and enhanced play area, with plans for bigger investment in a café and community hub.
Physical inactivity, obesity, diabetes are huge challenges for the NHS and through Rethinking Parks we are working with Fowey River GP Practice to deliver our social prescribing scheme alongside a range of other services, activities and facilities.
Who is working on the project?
Par Track Limited is the driving force behind this project, led by a group of volunteer directors and raising funding through a community share offer. We are excited to be leading this project and by the possibility of combining our knowledge and findings with local community partners. We are working alongside local partners such as Cornwall Council, St Austell Healthcare, Tywardreath School with support from other funders including Par Bay Big Local, Bright Ideas Fund and Aviva.
Background of the project
Social prescribing is still in its infancy and much of the research around existing schemes has proven inconclusive, with inconsistent data collection and measures of cost effectiveness. There are many different models and barriers to replicating successful approaches.
However, we took both inspiration and encouragement from other models locally and the positive results that they have been producing, for example at the Eden Project. Social prescribing usually works with a facilitator who signposts referrals to prospective activities from third parties. At Par Track, we have taken a different approach to this as we aim to deliver the majority of, if not all, of our signposted activities in-house.
What will the project achieve and how will other parks learn from your work?
During the first phase of the project, we will implement a range of activities and opportunities for physical activity and the promotion of positive mental health. In our case, social prescribing is facilitated by a part-time Healthy Living Coordinator employed by Par Track Limited, who is embedded in the neighbouring Par Health Centre who will be referring patients to Par Track to participate in a range of activities delivered by our team and our partners. Most of our facilities are outdoors and overall utilisation of our greenspaces is key to the success of the project.
As we move into phase two, we need to ensure our model is financially sustainable to ensure the project has a long-term future after Rethinking Parks support. We will evidence the effectiveness of our model through frequent reporting and progress on targets for engagement, adherence and participation. Working alongside other regional providers of social prescribing schemes we can begin to collate and disseminate best practice to support not only our own scheme but other providers.
At the end of the project we hope to have a learning package for other parks managers - including an online early-stage feasibility tool - and will run dissemination events for local authorities and others.