Plans for unveiled this week for the creation of an ambitious new park and gardens on the outskirts of Headford, under a proposal being promoted by Headford Community Garden and Headford Men’s Shed.
The groups have submitted a proposal to the Headford Development Association to create a public park on the lands adjacent to their gardens in Balrickard. A rewilded, multi-habitat park would transform outdoor living in the town and provide a much-needed greenspace that would be accessible to all.
The backers say that this would offer a relaxing setting for all ages and abilities. The project will act as a model for other Irish towns, with Headford becoming a leading example of how parkland and greenspace can help to revitalise rural settlements.
“This proposal for a park and gardens in Headford will create a quiet natural space in the centre of town for all to access and enjoy. It is a project that will benefit the people and the businesses of the town and surrounding areas for generations to come,” said Aengus McMahon, Spokesperson, Headford Park and Gardens.
Within the park the emphasis will be on biodiversity; the planting of native trees, introduction of biodiverse meadow spaces with mown paths, walking trails, picnic and play areas. The existing gardens and new parkland will serve as an outdoor classroom for use by local schools.
There are existing plans for Presentation College Headord’s Seomra Seoda to utilise the Headford Community Garden for outdoor classes. The park will be fully inclusive and accessible to all and will also include an outdoor cultural space for concerts, theatre shows and special events.
Brendan Smith, Convenor, Galway National Park City initiative welcomed the plans for Headford.
“During the Covid lockdowns, it was our walks in the rural countryside and wild landscapes that provided therapy for both mind and body. Medical research has shown that spending time in woods and near trees reduces stress levels, and improves the sense of wellbeing.
“We also came to realise that key problems of the modern era such as climate change, biodiversity loss and pandemics are interlinked and are symptomatic of our abuse of nature.
“So, in a post Covid world it is important that, for the health of human society and of the planet, we integrate green and blue spaces into the fabric of our cities, towns and villages. Hence the proposal for a public park in Headford, comprising a mix of wildlife habitats and social spaces for all ages is so welcomed.”
“The last year has shown us how invaluable it is to have access to high quality parkland, rewilded areas and greenspaces in towns and cities. These areas are vitally important for all members of society by providing a place where children can safely explore, where people can relax, walk, picnic and attend outdoor events and exhibitions. There is currently limited accessible greenspace in the town for its’ growing population,” he said.
Located on the outskirts of Headford, this new facility would be ideally located to act as a hub for both locals and visitors to explore the town and surrounding areas, by foot, bike or car. Information boards will direct visitors to nearby attractions including Ross Errilly Friary, castles, historic graveyards and Lough Corrib.
Recently Galway’s County Councillors unanimously supported a proposal to fund a feasibility study to examine the development potential of a cycleway and greenway from the Galway city to Headford. The park would be the perfect landing site for a future greenway.
Space such as the proposed park promotes feelings of connection and belonging, which is vitally important for mental health, a major issue in rural Ireland. Groups currently sharing the existing garden area include Tidy Towns, environmental groups, Scouts, Headford Lace Project, Yarn Bombers, Meals on Wheels and Ability West. For more details follow ‘Headford Park and Gardens’ on Facebook.
This community land has been the site of the Headford Men’s shed project for 10+ years. This is a community-based project, where men can come together to learn, share skills and make long-lasting friendships together. The Men’s Shed initiative is an invaluable resource for the people of the town: from their carpentry skills to their gardening work and beyond, they continue to promote the importance of social connections and give an enormous beneficial return to the town.
They have been neighbours since 2013, and during this time they have grown vegetables, hosted events and welcomed countless visitors to the garden. They are the first Community group in Galway to be awarded the An Taisce Green Flag for Community groups, which recognises and rewards the best and most well managed green spaces in the country. They also grow food for Meals on Wheels and have further plans for a new tunnel with safe access for people of all ages and all abilities.
Claran-based Cllr Andrew Reddington put forward a motion at a recent County Council meeting that the lands be changed from Business and Enterprise status to Community status in the upcoming County Development plan, to facilitate the development of community facilities such as the park and garden, a culturual centre and possibly a pitch for St Fursey’s ladies football club, incorporating a walkway.
“The reasoning for this is that the trustees of the land have recently put out an invitation to local community groups to pitch for the land. The lands in question have been in the trustees’ ownership for decades, with the first major development being Headford Cooperative Mart, afterwards a pitch and putt course, and later the Headford Mens Shed,” he said.
“There is now ample room for development on the remaining land,” said Cllr Reddington who added that there was not any point in any of the community groups getting a long term lease on the land if the right zoning was not in place.