A CORK city councillor is calling for the appointment of a park ranger for the Glen River Park after reports of the illegal use of scrambler bikes in the park.
The call comes after social media posts reported pedestrians and people pushing buggies being forced off of public footpaths by men driving scrambler bikes in the park earlier this month. There is also some criticism of the garda response.
The garda press office said Watercourse Road Gardaí had received a report of anti-social behaviour involving scrambler bikes in the park on New Year’s Day.
“Gardaí attended the scene and found no persons present,” a spokesperson said.
“Proactive policing patrols of the Glen area are carried out regularly and all reports of anti-social behaviour are treated seriously.”
Councillor Oliver Moran of the Green Party said he had called last year for the appointment of a park ranger to the Glen River Park, a proposal which, he said, had received a positive response, but unfortunately it hadn’t been possible to fund the position from the main city budget.
“In light of this and other incidents, I will be proposing that [a park ranger] is funded from the Local Area Committee budget in 2022 now instead,” Councillor Moran said.
On the issue of the garda response to the use of scramblers in the park, Councillor Moran said previous garda advice had been that members of the public should dial 999 if they see scramblers being used in the park, as such vehicles pose a serious danger in public spaces.
Labour councillor John Maher said he would back the appointment of a park ranger, but said it would come down to funding, adding that national government should provide funding for such positions across all parks.
Councillor Maher said that an increased garda presence was needed in the park, which he described as “the jewel in the crown of the North-East ward”.
“The experience of people contacting me, and I walk the park regularly myself, is that there’s not enough being done by the gardaí,” Councillor Maher said.
“The use of scrambler bikes in a public park is illegal, and the people doing this are ruining what is a public amenity for everyone, and we need to make an example of the people who are doing this in all public spaces across the city.
“There needs to be consequences to people’s actions, and at the moment there doesn’t seem to be, and we need the guards to step in and stop this illegal activity,” said Councillor Maher.
Workers Party councillor Ted Tynan also called for a stronger garda response.
“The use of scrambler bikes in public parks is illegal, and highly dangerous, and if possible gardaí should go in and seize the scramblers.”
Councillor John Sheehan of Fianna Fáil said he would back the appointment of a park ranger and said he agreed an increased garda presence was needed in the park, noting that the gardaí had in the past done a lot to tackle such anti-social behaviour in the park.
“The more a park is used, the safer it becomes, and people become much more aware of it, increasing their sense of ownership, and that’s why it’s hugely disappointing to see people coming in on scrambler bikes, it really scares people and it puts people off going there,” Councillor Sheehan said.
Councillor Sheehan said there are nine housing developments around Blackpool at the moment, at various stages, and all would need a green space.
“They will all need somewhere for people to go to walk and to play, and while we are trying to get more green spaces within the Blackpool area, the Glen Valley Park is the natural choice for most of them.”
Councillor Moran noted a recent Government pilot scheme offering public funding for scrambler tracks, and suggested Cork might benefit from a similar scheme.
“In December, €200,000 was provided to community projects in Dublin and Limerick for youth diversion programmes to provide training in vehicle handling, repair and maintenance.
“Places like the Glen River Park are no place for scramblers, but perhaps a combined carrot and stick approach could be found,” he said.
Councillor Sheehan said that it was, first and foremost, a matter of personal responsibility.
“This all goes to people’s behaviour, because people on scrambler bikes know that the park is not a suitable place to be bringing scrambler bikes, and it’s a very dangerous thing to do.
“Long term we could certainly look at an outlet for the owners of scrambler bikes, but racing around in a public park is completely unsuitable.”
Councillor John Maher agreed, saying that while State-funded scrambler tracks might offer an outlet to scrambler bikers at some point in the future, the bottom line is that using scrambler bikes in public parks is against the law.