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  • Southside

Locals fear the loss of their urban oasis

Tuesday, 21st November, 2017 8:00am

Story by Neil Fetherstonhaugh
Locals fear the loss of their urban oasis

The garden is a little oasis in the centre of the city

Locals fear the loss of their urban oasis

The garden is a little oasis in the centre of the city

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GREEN-fingered gardening enthusiasts in Dublin’s South city are appealing to Dublin City Council to spare their “urban oasis”.

The Bridgefoot Street Community Garden, which featured in a Southside People report in September, has been located in the heart of the Liberties for three years.

In that time, it has provided the local community with a green space within a concrete jungle but it is now facing an uncertain future. According to volunteers, Bridgefoot Street Community Garden is due to close on December 31.

This is to facilitate the creation of a new park as part of Dublin City Council’s Liberties Greening Strategy.

This is a wider plan to transform existing derelict sites into recreational green spaces. Bridgefoot Street, which was formerly earmarked for housing, will instead facilitate a performance area, a community garden and allotments, play zones and planted areas as part of the plan. And while locals are in favour of the new park and acknowledge that there are plans to incorporate a garden as part of the plans, they are worried that it will mean the end of their much-loved green space as they know it.

They say it is earmarked to be cleared to allow the park works to commence. And with the site’s impending closure, locals are worried because they say the council has yet to produce an interim plan for the existing community garden.

“There has been no support to relocate the garden temporarily or ensure existing plants and crops will be secured,” said Robert Moss of An Taisce Environmental Education.

“It seems likely that the Bridgefoot Community Garden will be cleared.”

This council site, nestled between Thomas Street, Usher Island, and Oliver Bond Street, within South Central Dublin, is one of the most densely populated areas of Dublin.

Locals point out that while there is no shortage of tourist attractions, shops, and historical interest within the area, there is a noticeable lack of any green space.

They say that the average Liberties resident has just 0.7 square metres of green space. 

“Bridgefoot Street Community Garden is the only amenity in this part of town in terms of a freely accessible site where people can regularly engage in outdoor activity if they don’t own their own garden or have access to a private allotment,” says Richard Taplin, community gardener.

“In less than three years, Bridgefoot Street has become a hub of activity and home to a healthy and vibrant ecosystem.”

“You can find all sorts of wildlife here at the garden,” added Sandra, another volunteer and an allotment holder, “from honey bees, butterflies, swallows, blue tits, falcons and bats.”

Volunteers who work at the garden say it has experienced a burst of creativity with musical and artistic contribution.

They have noticed how, in  many ways, the garden has informally provided services which have experienced cuts during recession times, such as mental health and rehabilitation.

“I’ve seen so many people come along, just to hang out and chat,” added Mr Taplin who also runs the Dublin Men’s Shed Group within the garden.

“The garden has played a huge role in healing depression, addiction and self-harm simply by providing people with a space to build strength, community and purpose.

 “If we lose the garden, those who have gained so much, will lose that space for healing and belonging.”

Volunteers flock to the garden on the weekends to join the community and develop their skills and interests in a supportive environment.

Robert Moss hosts various educational and horticulture workshops such as composting workshops, herbal workshops, horticultural training and groundwork improvements. 

A number of groups have made great use of the garden and been a part of its evolution over the years, most notably WeShare, Grow Your Own, Dublin Simon, Digital Hub, Diageo, Young Friends of the Earth, the PPN, Street Feasts, Culture Night, Stoneybatter Pride of Place, GIY and countless schools and youth groups around the city.

The garden has also been greeted with visitors from all across Europe and the US, and as far away as New Zealand.

“It’s clear that the garden has evolved far beyond being a mere allotment site or green space,” Richard explained

“It is now a centre of community, a place where people and nature connect and thrive.”

Bridgefoot Street Community Garden say they are calling on the public to help protect what has taken them three years of hard work to build.

Even though the gardeners have been given a date to vacate the site, they are still hoping that the council’s plan to develop a park on the wider site can also accommodate the existing garden.

A spokesperson for Dublin City Council said they will be contacting allotment holders and users of the community garden in the coming weeks to discuss the transition phase between the current garden and the new park on Bridgefoot Street.

“Where possible, assistance will be provided in respect of the removal/storage of materials, soil, crops, etc. during the park works,” the spokesperson said.

“It has not been possible to have this meeting before now but it is the council's intention to hold the meeting in the coming weeks. We can confirm that the new park will contain a community garden and allotments.”

 

Locals and visitors have flocked to the garden in recent years.  Community gardener Richard Taplin Richard Taplin, comunity gardener, says the garden has proved increasingly popular since it opened three years ago. PHOTO: DARREN KINSELLA

Read the digital editions of the Dublin People Northside East, Northside West & Southside here