Dublin’s green lung

Phoenix Park’s future

 

A year ago, Minster of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works Patrick O’Donovan reopened the side gates of the Phoenix Park, which had been closed by the OPW to give visitors a break from traffic during the pandemic. O’Donovan at the time said the park was a “thoroughfare” for commuters from west Dublin and as far away as Meath, Westmeath and Longford.

However, over the course of the year, he has gone on a journey of his own. Last week he said commuters, and planning and transport authorities across Leinster, must stop viewing the park as an “avenue to O’Connell Street”. He even came clean on his own past misuse of the city’s green lung, saying he previously used it as a free car park when up for the match in Croke Park.

O’Donovan might have got more credit for his Damascene conversion had he implemented the OPW’s plan, published earlier this year, for restricting traffic in the park. Instead of gate closures the OPW came up with a clever system of cul-de-sacs on the park’s peripheral roads which would allow visitors to access all of the park’s car parks, but would make it inconvenient for drivers to use the park as a throughway.

Despite public consultation showing widespread support for this approach, the final traffic report published last Tuesday was a much watered down version, with just one of the cul-de-sacs to be implemented, on a trial basis.

The real service O’Donovan has done is to highlight the twin scourges of the park: its use by motorists who are not park visitors, and inappropriate parking. Despite there being more than 2,000 designated car parking spaces, drivers persist in bypassing free spaces to park, in contravention of the park’s bylaws, on the grass, churning it into a muddy mess.

The OPW is about to embark on a new process to devise a parking enforcement strategy. This should be more straightforward than its traffic plans as the solution is obvious: hit offenders in their pockets with fines or clamps, a strategy O’Donovan will hopefully endorse.

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