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COMMENT: White-water centre plan is worthy of our support

Monday, 16th December, 2019 7:59am
COMMENT: White-water centre plan is worthy of our support

How the white-water centre would look at George’s Dock. SOURCE: DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL

COMMENT: White-water centre plan is worthy of our support

How the white-water centre would look at George’s Dock. SOURCE: DUBLIN CITY COUNCIL

COMMENT: Tony McCullagh

THE white-water rafting centre planned for George’s Dock in Dublin is certainly impressive in terms of its scale and ambition.

Dublin city councillors recently approved the proposal, which will see a world-class facility developed for water sports and emergency training in the heart of the IFSC. Estimated costs for the project are in the region of €22 million, which will come from a combination of grants and council funding.

Questions have been raised about whether the money could be put to better use, particularly in light of the ongoing homelessness crisis. While this is a legitimate concern, the truth is that we would never get anything done if we applied this logic to every project that came before a local authority. As we have learned, the housing shortage is a multi-layered problem that won’t be solved by simply throwing extra money at it.

Aside from its responsibility as a housing authority, Dublin City Council also has a remit to provide and manage public amenities, be they parks or sporting facilities. The development of a state-of-the-art white-water rafting centre would potentially have economic benefits for the city through increased tourism. And while this particular site has previously hosted beer festivals and Christmas markets, when left unused it is one of the last remaining eyesores of Dublin’s docklands.

For kayakers in Ireland, it would be a godsend. In my younger days, I participated in this wonderful sport where I forged lifelong friendships and had some unforgettable experiences, the pinnacle of which was completing the Liffey Descent. Some of those I started out with as a novice became extremely accomplished paddlers and went on to run some very challenging rivers at home and abroad.

The truth is that Dublin is limited if you want to develop as a kayaker. Sluice weir at Lucan is probably as extreme as it gets – and that’s only when there is a water release or heavy rainfall. It can be pretty crowded up there at times and, when at low levels, the quality of water on the Liffey is not for the squeamish.

There are some popular rivers for kayaking in Wicklow but, again, they are weather-dependent and trips require a lot of driving if you are Dublin-based.

Kayakers spend a lot of their time tracking rainfall forecasts before putting a boat on the roof of their car. In summer, when the rivers in Ireland are reduced to a trickle, they head off to places like the French Alps for decent white-water levels.

The facility planned for George’s Dock would give paddlers of all the levels the ability to hone their skills on a year-round basis. Crucially, it also has the support of Dublin Fire Brigade who have fully endorsed the project and plan to use it for rescue training exercises.

I have some reservations about the location. Traffic congestion along the quays is a nightmare as it is and there is limited parking in the vicinity of George’s Dock. If kayakers wish to use their own boats at the facility, they certainly won’t be bringing them on board the Luas. Putting these misgivings aside, however, I still believe that this is a plan worthy of public and political support.

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