Turning the Grand and Royal canals into national parks
Sir, – In part prompted by the action planned by Waterways Ireland to frustrate both local residents and Dublin City Council (“Grand Canal market to continue trading”, Olivia Kelly, April 14th), I strongly urge that these two important pieces of redundant but historically significant transport and leisure infrastructure – the Grand and Royal canals – should be designated as new linear national parks for their preservation and promotion as potentially major tourist attractions.
Look at the amazing restoration carried out over the past two decades on the disused Westside freight railway on Manhattan, and which is now the acclaimed High Line National Park in New York City.
Our own Wild Atlantic Way is another superb example of applying some imagination towards making the most out of what we already have, but for various reasons, have ignored for generations.
A major benefit of carrying out this proposal is that nurturing these two canals would add tourist value to urban and rural Ireland, given their respective routes from Dublin to the Shannon. I understand that these two canals, with their wonderful bridges and locks, some dating from the 1780s, are now being “passively minded” by Waterways Ireland, based in Enniskillen and showing scant regard for local preferences, either resident or community, in the Mespil Road and Wilton Place area of Dublin.
I encourage this proposal now before these two canal systems fall into a state of irrecoverable disrepair. Just think what happened to so many of the disused CIÉ railway lines over the years – gradual encroachment by neighbouring landowners, who then claimed squatters’ rights and effectively imposed access restrictions, which have frustrated many attempts to convert wonderful “permanent ways” into cycle/walking paths for local and tourist recreation.
Of course there will be “turf” issues to be overcome, along with ownership, planning permissions, public liability, insurance, financing and maintenance, but it will be a huge lost opportunity for Ireland if these two infrastructure relics are not taken into active and caring public ownership within our portfolio of national parks. – Yours, etc,
JOHN BLAKE DILLON,