A 70 acre park for the people of Cork - here's how to have your say on the plans...

The 70 acre Marina Park will be the jewel in the crown of the newly regenerated docklands, says the Lord Mayor Cllr Deirdre Forde. The public are being invited to have their say on the plans
A 70 acre park for the people of Cork - here's how to have your say on the plans...

Marina Park Phase 2, the Pier. Picture: Cork City Council.

YOU can’t fail to see, as you walk the streets of Cork city, that our city is growing and changing.

The National Planning Framework predicts that Cork will become the fastest growing city region in Ireland with a projected 50% to 60% increase in population by 2040. This forecast is backed up by significant investment by Government.

In 2021, the Government announced an unprecedented €399 million allocation to Cork City from the Urban Regeneration and Development Fund (URDF). This reveals the confidence in our city at a national level. The city boundary extension of 2019 grew our city overnight by 85,000 people and the population is only set to expand further.

The challenge now facing Cork City Council as a local authority is to provide the necessary housing and infrastructure to accommodate this expansion. Cork City Council is looking to the city’s long-neglected dockland areas to grow the heart of the city.

Some important planning applications have been made to this end, notably in the last week the radical O’Callaghan Properties ‘South Docks’ development has passed through the first stage of planning with the first phase of the development having been approved by Cork City Council. The lion’s share (€353.4 million) of the URDF funding secured last year is allocated to the development of the docklands area, which will fund sustainable transport and mobility infrastructure, public realm enhancement and drainage and flooding mitigation measures.

The vision for the area is that 70-80% of all movement in the docklands will be on foot, by bike or public transport, in line with the city’s ambition to become climate neutral by 2030.

The docklands redevelopment will be transformative for the city and breathe new life into a part that has lain dormant for quite some time.

Examples of successful urban planning on the continent have shown us that it’s vital, in creating a truly liveable city, to balance infrastructural development like this with sustainability and biodiversity. For urban dwellers, the importance of having green space in a city cannot be overestimated. During the dark days of lockdown, the increase in users of our city’s parks was obvious, with families, young people, senior citizens rediscovering what hidden gems lay within their 2km, grasping the opportunity to get outside the four walls of a home that had been unexpectedly repurposed as a workplace, a classroom and had become, to some, a prison of sorts.

The respite of being in the open air, in nature, and yet not breaking any public health regulations was a balm to the soul.

This is why the 70-acre Marina Park will be the jewel in the crown of the newly regenerated docklands and a haven for biodiversity, just 2.5km cycle or walk from the city centre. 

In May, the first phase of the park was opened, with its iconic red steel pavilion which pays homage to the Munster Showground’s Central Hall, which once stood on the site, and a central plaza. The plaza area will be used for gatherings and organised events.

Reimagining our industrial heritage and reflecting it in the architecture and landscape will be a fundamental principle of the docklands regeneration. The distinctive fountain close to the plaza has come into its own over the last couple of weeks of heatwave, with smallies flocking to frolic in the cool jets of water. The park has already become an urban haven for families.

When it’s completed, Marina Park will be six times larger than Fitzgerald’s Park and equivalent in size to Dublin Zoo. Phase Two 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 woodland, marshland, meadows and water. Coupled with the work also due to begin on the upgrade of the nearby Marina which will help further integrate Marina Park, the upgraded Passage Railway Greenway with the Docklands and Blackrock Village, this will bring a new sense of place and community to the area.

There is a strong commitment to the preservation of built heritage structures in the area, such as Barrington’s Folly, the slipway at Dundanion Castle, a boat house, an old quay wall and boundary walls. Biodiversity is at the very heart of the second phase of the park’s development, with ecological management of meadows, woodlands and marsh areas and the enhancing of existing natural assets in the park including the Atlantic Pond, the Marsh, mature woodland and open meadow areas, which will promote and increase the biodiversity of the area. The next generation of our city will be encouraged to get to grips with their surroundings in a nature playground, one of many play areas planned for the park.

It’s exciting to me that such an enormous asset to our city is going to be available and accessible within a stone’s throw of the city centre, and so well connected by sustainable transport links.

I can see the central plaza becoming a focal point for gatherings and entertainment, the picnic benches provided being filled with families and friends laughing and chatting, the meadows and woodland abuzz with wildlife – it is an idyllic vision.

We must not forget that this is also truly a park for the people of Cork - public consultation is still underway on Phase Two until 19th August, and if you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to look at the plans on https://consult.corkcity.ie and have your say in its development.

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