Sylvia Ferreira drags a black scooter with one hand along the ground behind her, along James’s Walk.
On her left is a 200-metre long green space, hilly and lined by a graffitied wall, between Fatima Luas Stop and Basin View.
There are few places in the local area to play, she says. The green space, which is next to her son’s school, definitely isn’t one of them.
It’s depressing to walk past, she says, so people don’t linger there. “The litter is a constant thing there.”
Says Gemma Moore, pushing her baby in a pram: “It’s just dirty.”
“There’s nothing there. It’s just a waste of space,” she says, briefly glancing at it. “It’s just boring looking.”
There are several bare trees and bumpy hills. Cans, bin bags and packaging are piled in corners and along a low wall that divides the space from the footpath.
Lining the west edge of the green space, Luas tracks swing around the corner of St James’ Hospital, and continue west along the kilometre of St James’ Linear Park in Rialto.
Dublin City Council plans to start to make the green space here into a proper landscaped park in the coming weeks, said Bruce Phillips, the council area manager, at last Wednesday’s South Central Area Committee meeting.
The works would be phase two of the council’s masterplan for St James’ Linear Park, a plan to spruce up the length of the park into a destination, which has been discussed since 2018.
Works should begin in the first week of February and take about four months, said Michael Pidgeon, a Green Party councillor.
At the same time, the council is planning to start work on the interim Suir Road to Thomas Street cycle lane, part of the council’s active travel network to connect segregated cycle lanes around the city. A “share with care section” of the cycle route will run through the linear park.
The New Park
The easternmost corner of the linear park is set to be used for fruit trees and edible plants. Schools and residents could do the planting themselves, say the park’s phase two plans from September 2022.
There would be benches, some accessible gym equipment and more trees and shrubs too.
Ferreira says she immediately likes the idea. “A park, and colour, and people around to populate it will certainly liven it up, so much.”
Dublin 8 is short of places to bring your kids to play. Rialto in particular needs a proper playground, she says.
“For the children to play, and for families to be around, and the community to use it,” she says. “Change the atmosphere of the current state.”
Says Moore: “That’s a great idea, for everyone, like for the kids and everything. There aren’t any parks. There’s no actual, good parks.”
At the moment, the linear park lacks other kinds of infrastructure too, Moore says. In particular, bins – and traffic lights, because cars sometimes go too fast along James’s Walk. “Especially at night time.”
A group of locals have had big ambitions for the linear park for some years, for what it could become once construction is done and it emerges from the shadow of the building site for the National Children’s Hospital.
“It’s brilliant to see that investment,” says Carol Ballantine, of the plans for the corner of the park at Basin View. She trusts the council to do a good job, she says.
Ballantine is a representative of the New Ireland Road, Upper Cross Road and Portmahon Drive Residents’ Group, a network of housing estates south of the linear park.
These plans look consistent with the bigger masterplan, she says, although it’s still just about 150 to 200 metres of the kilometre-long linear park.
“It’ll be used by kids from local schools,” she says. “It’s great to see, it’s just also, a bit of a no-brainer.”
Ideas for the park were born five years ago, she says, and little has been done since.
It’s great to see the parking happening for the community, she says, even if her kids are finishing up in school in Canal Way on Basin View now. “It’s too late for us, that’s fine, that’s the way it goes.”
The only part of the park that has been done up since the masterplan came out is near the entrance to St James’ Hospital, where new trees have been planted and the ground landscaped, says Ballantine.
But the building site for the children’s hospital still encroaches and takes up quite a bit of space along the St James’ Walk path, she says. “They’ve knocked down trees. They’ve guzzled up a huge amount of that space so it’s really, really crowded.”
On a Cycle Route
Works on the Suir Road to Thomas Street interim cycle lane are also planned to begin soon, said Phillips, the area manager, at Wednesday’s meeting.
Plans show that the cycle lane would start at Grand Canal View, run through the park, across Rialto Bridge, along St James’ Walk, past the south end of Basin View, and take a left up Pim Street, ending at the turn onto Thomas Street.
The route through the park would be a shared space on the existing footpath, segregated by paint and added signs.
Ballantine and others in the residents’ group have said they’re concerned that the park would be treated as a through-way rather than a destination.
“We’re all cyclists, the proposals are badly needed to improve bike accessibility,” she says.
But they had been disappointed to find out that the bit of the park that the cycle lane runs through would be managed not by the parks department, but by the transportation department, she says.
“We were excited that Parks would have a role in it. Landscape architects and environmentalists having a role in developing it,” she says. “[The linear park is] long and narrow, it’s a funny space, but you can work with it.”
Rialto takes on a lot of city infrastructure, like the Luas, the hospital, and this cycle lane, without getting much back, says Ballantine.
The infrastructure tends to not take the local community into account, she says. “Feels a lot like, we’re a bit worn out saying the same thing via the official channels.”
Ballantine says that the council hasn’t said whether it has used the results of the public consultation, held at the end of 2022, in the design for the interim scheme, as it hasn’t published the findings.