Destruction of woods and meadows is ‘a mockery of city’s Green Leaf status’— meeting to be told tonight

Ahead of a public meeting tonight (Thursday Nov 24 ) leading community activist has condemned as “environmental and health vandalism” the proposals by the Galway City Council to advocate the construction of buildings and a road through the main urban parks.

Brendan Smith of the Terryland Forest Alliance said this week that the move was “a betrayal of the hundreds of dedicated residents, scientists, teachers, and youth who regularly give their time, energies, and ideas to developing and maintaining the local authority’s woods, parks and green spaces, for the benefit of the general public”.

“There is a deep sense of shock and a feeling of betrayal amongst Galway’s army of environmental volunteers as we witness council officials undertaking a complete U-turn on long standing environmental policies, which will have serious negative consequences on people’s health, on air quality, on the education of our children, on the county’s commitment to combat global climate change, and which will led to the destruction of sensitive wildlife corridors that have taken decades to nurture,” Mr Smith added. “We are calling on citizens and their elected representatives to save our city from what can only be described as institutional environmental and health vandalism and are hosting a public meeting on this issue at 7.30pm tonight Thursday November 24 in the Menlo Park Hotel.

Save the city

“In the last few weeks, we have been informed by City Hall that the Terryland Forest Park multi-sectoral steering committee that includes NUI Galway, GMIT, An Taisce, HSE, schools, and communities can no longer meet due to budgetary restrictions; that a road will be built through the same forest park; that an ancient meadow in Merlin Woods will be bulldozed to make way for a hospice in spite of suitable alterative sites existing nearby; that the council propose to make it illegal for children to climb trees and that the number of workers in park maintenance are being reduced.

“It is only a few years ago that a petition signed by over 10,000 Galwegians stopped a road being built through Terryland Forest Park, a park referred to as the ‘People’s Park’ as most of its 100,000 trees were planted by the people of the city from March 2000 onwards. The council are ignoring the reasons why people did so. For the latest scientific research shows the fundamental importance of trees and nature to people’s wellbeing, which is why the next generation of cities across the world are integrating parks, food gardens, and forests into their urban infrastructures. Ireland has the highest rate of obesity and weight excess in Europe, while over 20 per cent of our young people suffer from some form of mental health disorder, much of which can stem from what is known as nature deficit disorder. Experiencing the clean air as well as the calming and stimulation effect of the great outdoors is now being promoted by the medical profession worldwide as an alternative to the costly drugs and pill culture.

Brutal actions

“These brutal actions make a mockery of the city being declared a green capital of Europe as the EU Green Leaf City 2017. Projects involving community volunteers played a key role in securing this international accolade. Activists were therefore hoping that the city’s new found international eco-status would led to significant investment and progress being made in promoting greater public usage of the parks and in supporting park-based nature learning initiatives for children. Over the last year, scientists, technologists, teachers, health experts, and ecologists have begun working together to commence the process of transforming Terryland into a huge outdoor classroom and outdoor laboratory for our educational institutions that could also provide major tourist benefit. Heritage enthusiasts have started to use it as a learning hub for traditional rural skills including the creation of native wildflower meadows.

“Yet we are now faced with the extraordinary situation that the council has decided that Galway’s communities can no longer be involved in developing a park that they actually founded. This decision is the antithesis of civic engagement, a cornerstone of the city’s development strategy. The council authorities are, it seems, treating forests and parks as a reserve land bank to be chipped away when land is needed to be cemented and tarmacked over. The Terryland Forest Park is officially known as the ‘Lungs of the City’. Stretching from the wetlands of the river Corrib along the Dyke Road to the farmlands of Castlegar it has the potential to be even more important to Galway than the Phoenix Park is to Dublin. But it is being denied the resources that it so urgently needs to encourage greater public accessibility while funds and support from steering committee members are being ignored.”

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