Taoiseach Micheál Martin officially opened Cork’s newest park on Sunday, an amenity that will be equivalent in size to Dublin Zoo when its second phase is completed.
Addressing the large gathering of families at the opening of phase one of the Marina Park, Mr Martin said that project was of special significance to him as he remembered walking in the area as a young boy.
“It (the park) will become the jewel in the crown. It is a bit of a personal journey for me. As a young boy, the age of some of the kids here, we came down these roads… Monaghan Road, Centre Park Road, if you were going to a match in the old Athletic grounds.
“During the recent lockdown people came to rediscover this location (again) as the heartbeat of recreation and touching base with nature.”
Looking to phase two of the project Mr Martin said efforts would continue to seek to retain the built heritage, the biodiversity, and the historic elements of this area.
Marina Park will be six times larger than Cork’s Fitzgerald’s Park when phase two is completed. The wider 146 hectare Cork Docklands is the largest regeneration project in the country. Mr Martin said the 70 acre park will be its playground and a haven for biodiversity.
Mr Martin added that the pandemic and lockdown 5km restrictions highlighted the importance of amenity spaces.
“The use of outdoor spaces during the pandemic in particular was extremely important for the wellbeing and health of people.This project is going to be a powerful aspect in that respect.
“I am absolutely thrilled to be here. It is a wonderful addition to the amenities of our city and the wider region,” he said.
“I certainly used this area during various restrictive periods. I hasten to add that it is well within the five kilometres of where I live! It is a wonderful voyage of discovery because there is lots of history here and lots of nature here.”
As part of the official opening ceremony, the Taoiseach planted an Irish native tree, the wild cherry while pupils from the Green School Committees in nearby Ballintemple National School, St Michael’s Church of Ireland National School and Scoil na Croise Naofa planted pollinator plants.
Marina Park is just 2.5 kilometres cycle or walk from the city centre. Phase One was funded with a €3.5 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund’s Southern and Eastern Regional Operational Programme 2014-20 managed by the Southern Regional Assembly.
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government also awarded a €2.5 million grant to the project under the LIHAF Programme with the remaining funding coming from Cork City Council resources.
Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr Colm Kelleher said when fully developed, Marina Park will be a new eco regional park for the people of Cork and beyond.
Cork City Council chief executive, Ann Doherty said the docklands project will provide homes for over 20,000 and more than 25,000 jobs over the next 20 years with best in class transportation, public spaces, schools, medical and social services, restaurants, hotels and recreation facilities.
“ This project will grow the heart of Cork City”.
The second and final phase of the Marina Park project is due to go to public consultation later this summer.