THE first phase of Cork’s newest park, which when fully completed will be six times the size of Fitzgerald’s Park, opens to the public on Monday.
Just 2.5 kilometres from the city centre and adjacent to the newly pedestrianised and much-loved Marina, this section of the park is defined by a steel pavilion which pays homage to the Munster Showground’s Central Hall, which formerly stood at this site, and a central plaza, made of natural stone and concrete.
The new park also features expanses of green space, water features, lighting, seating, new pathways, bridges. and upgraded public parking near Shandon Boat Club.
Cork City Council has said public toilets will also be installed before Christmas, having been delayed by supply chain issues.
Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher described the park as a “fantastic new amenity”.
“This park’s design is based upon accessibility for all ages and abilities, encouraging physical activity and supporting ecology, biodiversity, culture and outdoor events,” he said.
“The development of this park also demonstrates how Cork City Council want the nearby Cork City Docklands to be first and foremost a great place to live as well as a great place to work in and invest in.”
Independent councillor for the city’s south-east ward, Kieran McCarthy also lauded the project.
“The park looks great and will add immensely to the Marina district,” he said.
Mr McCarthy, who is also a local historian, said perhaps the most eye-catching part of the new park is the pavilion.
“The showgrounds, at its cultural height in the 20th century, attracted tens of thousands of people who enjoyed what the spring and summer shows had to offer,” he said.
“The new park is a modern offering on the site, which will attract citizens from across the city and region.
“The sides of the pavilion reflecting the society’s former buildings will not be enclosed, and there will be possibilities for coffee pods and outdoor seating and arts and crafts.”
The project represents an estimated €10m investment into the area, of which around €5m came from EU Urban Sustainable Funds — part of the EU’s structural funds and “a crucial source of funding for cities”, Mr McCarthy said.
The park was designed by OKRA Landscape Architects, with O’Connor Sutton Cronin and Howley Hayes Cooney also involved in the project.
It was constructed by Sorensen Civil Engineering Limited, with Greenway Landscaping as part of their team.
Cork City Council said Marina Park has “two main functions”, designed to be an enjoyable amenity as well as serving as “a key climate adaptation intervention; acting as a flood storage basin for the south docklands during periods of pluvial flooding”.
Detailed design is underway on the next phase of Marina Park, which will see the development of another 60 acres of parkland from the Atlantic Pond to Blackrock pier, leading to the creation of a ‘regional eco park’.
This next phase of Marina Park will include ecological trails and resting points created through existing forested areas; managed wetlands, including reeds and water gardens; a woodland playground and meadowlands.
It will also contain a cultural heritage trail that will run through the park, including safe public access to the Barrington Folly, the old quay walls and the slipway at Dundanion Castle.
Public consultation on phase two of the project is due to take place next spring, with construction beginning the following autumn, subject to planning. Construction will likely take 15 months, with works scheduled for completion in winter 2023.
In the vicinity, work is also due to start next year on the upgrade of the Marina promenade, which will help integrate Marina Park, the upgraded Passage Railway Greenway with the Docklands and Blackrock Village.
The upgraded promenade, which was pedestrianised in the past 18 months, will include public lighting, hard and soft landscaping, dedicated pedestrian and cycle spaces, repairs to the quay walls. and new seating and bike parking.
Works have also been underway since last spring on the upgrading of the nearby Blackrock-Passage Railway Greenway Phase 1 running from the Marina to Mahon.
Cork City Council said the Blackrock Station heritage footbridge is due to be reinstated across the greenway in the coming weeks.