All year round swimmers and users of Blackrock beach are alarmed by proposals for an extensive network of handrails to be constructed around the site and its changing facilities, and they are appealing to the public to support their opposition to such measures.
Submissions from the public on the proposed refurbishment works can be made in writing or via email until 4pm on Thursday June 22, and Raymond O'Connor, a Salthill man, who is an avid swimmer at Blackrock, and a member of a group of concerned Blackrock users, is appealing to fellow swimmers, and the public at large, to make their views known.
Cork engineering company Cronin Miller has been tasked by the Galway City Council with overhauling Blackrock. At a public meeting on the proposed changes, Cronin Miller outlined plans for a major clean up of the groundworks; repairing damaged parts of the infrastructure; provision of a new lifeguard shelter; levelling of uneven and slippery areas; replacing/repairing various steps in and around the diving tower; and replacing one of the diving boards.
The proposed works are planned for February 2018 and would be completed by May that year. during that time the general public will not be permitted access to the site.
According to Mr O'Connor, Cronin Miller's plans outline a series of much needed renovation works for the facility. He said: "The vast majority of these works were broadly welcomed by the users of Blackrock."
However, users are concerned by the proposed provision of a wide range of handrails within the immediate changing area of Blackrock. Its effect would be to corral the main changing area and partition it from the rest of the facility. The main changing area would then be 'fenced in' from the rest of Blackrock. Also the proposed railings would only have two entrance/exit points from the main changing area - which is among the smaller sections of the Blackrock facility - thus impeding users' freedom of movement, and by extension reducing the available number of spots where people can sit, change, sunbathe, or gather in groups. Part of the attraction of Blackrock for many is the social and communal experience many find there. Creating a long series of handrails - some in areas which do not need such structures, would cordon off areas and affect the communal atmosphere enjoyed by swimmers.
Concerns over this aspect of the plan resulted in a meeting last weekend, addressed by city councillors Pearce Flannery and Donal Lyons, and the Social Democrats Galway rep, Niall Ó Tuathail, and attended by more than 100 people. The meeting also saw a group nominated to move swimmers' concerns and observations to these plans forward; to meet the elected councillors, the city manager, and appropriate director of services; to voice concerns and "propose other less obtrusive and unnecessary changes"; and to "stop some of the proposed changes from going ahead".
Although submissions are still being accepted by City Hall, the file is now closed, bar for physical inspection at City Hall. However Mr O'Connor has a digital copy of the plans for the proposed changes and said any member of the public who wishes to view it can email him at [email protected].