Neighbourhoods with Lovely Green Parks Grapple with Influxes of Visitors’ Cars on Sunny Days and Game Days

Weekends at Bushy Park in Terenure, visitors flock to the pop-up food market, tennis pitches, gaelic football pitches, and ample woods, duck ponds and wanderable green spaces.

Many opt to drive there.

That means that Rathdown Avenue – which runs along the northern boundary of the 51-acre patchworks of amenities – and adjoining roads are swamped with cars, says Ben Costelloe, a resident of Rathdown Drive.

“Very often we can’t get parking outside our own house. We can’t even get in because they park, they encroach on the driveway, they don’t leave you space to swing the car in,” he says. “They park up on the green area.”

It can be dangerous and inconvenient for residents, says Mary Freehill, a Labour councillor. “Some people have difficulty maybe even getting out their gate. So they’re a bit landlocked.”

It’s a familiar problem for all parks with a sports pitch and no car park, says independent Councillor Pat Dunne, pointing to areas around Whelan Park in Terenure and William Pearse Park in Crumlin as suffering too.

At a meeting of the council’s South East Area Committee on Monday 11 April, Neil O’Donoghue, a council senior engineer, said the council relies on parking enforcement to deal with this issue. “If they park on a footpath, we can clamp them.”

Solutions beyond that, though, may involve permit parking schemes, encouraging people to change travel habits, and making sure there are public transport routes that people can take easily to the flagship green spaces in the city.

On Rathdown Road, and Elsewhere

“We’re increasingly seeing parking issues around training pitches,” said Carolyn Moore, a Green Party councillor. Cars parking on the grass, double parking on footpaths, she says, and completely blocking the road.

O’Donoghue, the council’s senior engineer, said for Whelan Park, it’s normally the busiest when people arrive and leave after sports matches.

Sports clubs aren’t solely behind parking problems, says Brian Kelly, the public relations officer for Templeogue Synge Street GAA club, which uses the pitches in Bushy Park.

Weekends without matches are also hugely busy, he says. “The congestion is caused by so many wanting to exercise and be part of teams, play tennis, walk in the park, have a burger in the sun.”

Dunne, the independent councillor, says that people flock to Whelan Park in Terenure and William Pearse Park in Crumlin from all directions. “They kind of just park wherever that’s closest. It’s a problem everywhere there is a sports venue.”

Mick Carroll, the pitch coordinator for Larkview Football Club, which plays at Whelan Park, says there’s a pinch point at the park entrance on Kimmage Grove.

In the evening, when young kids are practising, parents drop their kids off, and there isn’t enough space for people to get in and out between rows of parked cars, he says.

“A lot of the parents want to stand around and wait for little Johnny to come off the pitch, you know?” says Carroll, which causes delays for the next round of parents dropping older kids off.

The club has two traffic wardens out during the winter, and encourages parents to walk and cycle in the summer, he says.

“The residents have an issue in terms of, they feel the club is not taking due care at particular times,” he says. “It’s very difficult for us to do anything about that. We want the neighbours to be happy, we want everyone to be happy.”

Relying on Parking Enforcement?

O’Donoghue, the council engineer, said around Whelan Park, the council prefers to use enforcement rather than bollards to tackle the issue. That would be easier if the neighbourhood agreed a permit parking scheme, he said.

To get a permit parking scheme, residents have to send the council a petition with signatures from 35 percent of residents. The council draws up a parking scheme and then residents vote on whether to go ahead with it.

Where permit parking has been rolled out, it in most cases costs residents €50 to park a car for one year and €80 for two years.

Only the residents of Kimmage Grove who live closest to the park are keen on a parking scheme right now, says Freehill, the Labour councillor. “People only tend to want to change when the pain is bad enough.”

Residents on the further-off streets wouldn’t be able to ignore the problem for long if they faced knock-on effects from nearby streets voting for it, she says. “Then the commuters and everything else start going to the inner part, and then they feel the pain.”

A permit parking scheme would be a good way to control the parking since residents can call clampers out when anyone without a disc is parked, rather than risking clamping a neighbour, she says.

“But if the residents don’t want the disc scheme, in fairness to the traffic department, you know, it’s limited in terms of what they can do,” she says.

Said O’Donoghue about Whelan Park, at the meeting: “I don’t know if the councillors can push on the neighbourhood to look for a pay and display scheme? That might help the problems in the area.”

There are yellow lines, says Carroll, and the club often calls the clampers if cars are parked on yellow lines or on the kerb.

“They’re actually very reluctant to clamp cars,” he says, because the cars could be parents of young kids.

In November, the council proposed more yellow lines and pay-and-display parkingaround Rathdown Avenue and other roads near Bushy Park, and asked people what they thought.

O’Donoghue said at the meeting that the results of the consultation are coming soon.

Costelloe, the local resident, says he thought the proposal was good, but the solution wasn’t perfect as people will still drive to Bushy Park. “We asked many times if they would provide car parking in Bushy Park, and we haven’t got a positive response yet.”

“It’s a very big park and it doesn’t have to be four acres of tarmacadam,” he says.

A Bigger Picture

Kelly, the public relations officer for Templeogue Synge Street GAA club, said that clubs get too much blame for parking problems around parks.

More pitches is the answer, to spread the load around to areas that could better accommodate it better,” he says. Also, school pitches should be used for matches at the weekends while car parks are empty, says Kelly.

Spreading amenities around – in particular, creating a 15-minute city whereby Dubliners have most of what they need within a 15-minute walk or cycle – is what the council and the National Transport Authority (NTA) say they want to do.

The NTA’s draft Greater Dublin Area Transport Strategy talks about the need for “mixed-use development”, making the 15-minute city a key consideration around what gets build where, so people don’t have to travel far.

Dublin City Council’s draft city development plan – which is currently in the works – also commits to the 15-minute city, and talks about “optimising the interconnection between land use and transport planning”.

Under BusConnects, the redesign of the city’s bus network, two orbital routes are due in future to run near Bushy Park, and in total, there should be nine bus routes passing the vicinity of Bushy Park.

The NTA’s Greater Dublin cycle network plan 2021 shows a primary route running north to south along Templeogue Road, west of Bushy Park, and a greenway running along the River Dodder to the east. A secondary route runs east to west at the very bottom of Bushy Park, too.

Says Dunne, the independent councillor: “It’s like everything else, we have to try and create a situation where less people use the car to get to these venues.”

A lot of people could change their driving habits to walking and cycling, because a lot of people driving to parks don’t actually live far away, he says.

But some people will need to drive, as public transport doesn’t always take people through residential estates, which are likely the routes people are taking to parks, he says. “Most of the buses on our network go along main roads.”

In the meantime, restricted parking and enforcement are needed to handle the pressure of the squash of cars at entrances to parks, he says.

Freehill, the Labour councillor, says the council has tried very little so far to solve the problems around Bushy and Whelan parks. Residents of Rathdown Avenue and Kimmage Grove feel frustrated, she says.

The council needs to communicate more with residents, she says. “Really what we’re dealing with here is inaccessibility of the traffic department services to communities.”

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Claudia Dalby: Claudia Dalby is a city reporter for Dublin Inquirer. She's especially interested in stories about the southside, transport, and kids in the city. Get in touch at [email protected]

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