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The green area by the Ballyfermot Community Civic Centre looks like an open field, but that’s likely to change soon.
The designs for a new park that is set to have a market space, an “edible garden”, and play and exercise facilities, were discussed by councillors at last Wednesday’s monthly South Central Area Committee meeting.
According to the plans, the space is set to be called the Ballyfermot People’s Park.
The park will be a space that the local community can shape and take command of, says Suzanne O’Connell, Landscape Architect with Dublin City Council Parks and Landscape Services, who headed the consultation, speaking over the phone.
“By calling it the People’s Park, which is kind of a historical idea, there’s a kind of idea that it’s common ground-ish [and] that people over time will take ownership of it,” says O’Connell.
Eight months of talks with locals, and two online consultations all fed into plans for the People’s Park, says O’Connell.
“Regarding the engagement, there is always heavy emphasis on meaningful engagement in the development of the city’s parks,” says O’Connell
Previous efforts in community engagement and public consultation in city park projects in The Liberties, led to the building of Weaver Park, in 2017.
The real world discussions for the People’s Park were carried out in one-to-one interviews at the Civic Centre and audio interviews.
“Part of my practise was very much about deep engagement, one-to-one conversations. So we did a lot of that,” says O’Connell.
Rónán Ó’Dailaigh, CEO of the Ballyfermot Social Enterprise Centre, says he thinks it’s a brilliant initiative.
Communities like Ballyfermot have been abandoned when it comes to public funding, he says. “It’s well overdue that the council steps up and puts serious investment into public amenities.”
The council understood local needs well, says Ó’Dailaigh. “They did a huge amount of work to harvest the great ideas that came up during the consultations.”
Those ideas included a market space for food, plants and crafts, an insect trail, and outdoor table tennis.
Others called for a space for outside gatherings and opportunities for the local community to engage with nature.
It’s designed to be a park for everybody, says Sinn Féin Councillor Daithí Doolan. With much more than just recreational facilities.
He points to the vegetable patch, bee sanctuary and market space. “It will promote a good strong environmental core to us,” he says.
The layout of the park also gets rid of the big open space which locals had said attracted anti-social behaviour, he says.
Instead, the new layout has winding pathways though green areas of gently rising mounds. A mix of trees and plants will bring“seasonal colour to the park”, say the plans.
Green Party Councillor Sophie Nicoullaud says that initially she had concerns regarding sustainability and biodiversity.
But after talking to O’Connell she is satisfied that the council is taking such considerations on board, she says.
“There’ll be some wild areas in the park,” says Nicoullaud. Grass will be left uncut there.
She’s hoping too that the trees in the park will be all indigenous such as birch, pines and hawthorn, she says. But that’s still to be decided by council officials.
A Wider Lens
Ó’Dailaigh says he’s excited about the way the park will link with the Ballyfermot Civic Centre.
The civic centre is underused, he says. Currently the civic centre has a cafe, theatre space and youth services.
Having the park next to it “is going to create a whole host of new opportunities for community groups, community businesses, cooperatives, social enterprises to grow and have more impact”, he says.
O’Connell says that was part of her vision, to support what’s already in the neighbourhood: “One of the things I realised was that all the Ballyfermoters are really self-organised.”
Activities such as storytelling and traditional music in the civic centre can have a space now outdoors, she says.
Peadar Lynch, garden manager of Cherry Orchard Community Gardens says he has been approached about the idea of having a stall at the new park when it opens.
“We said, Of course,” says Lynch. “From our point of view, the more parks the better.”
Getting it Built
Funding for phase one of the park has been secured, says O’Connell.
Work on that – which includes laying out the paths, earth mounding, and establishing the edible garden– should start by the end of the year, she says.
The plans say that the public will be given the opportunity to see the new plans at the park for six weeks from the end of June and get another chance to give feedback to the council.