A group of parents in Kiltimagh have launched a campaign to secure a free-to-use park for the town.
There are currently 38 free playgrounds in Mayo but none in Kiltimagh.
The only children’s play facility in the town is an indoor and outdoor playground developed privately by local community development company, the IRD.
The IRD’s playground charges children an entrance fee in order to meet the running costs and insurance for the park.
Now a new parents group, called KAP (Kiltimagh Amenity Park ), has held an initial meeting to campaign for a free park and is planning a further public meeting to try to unite the community behind its ambitious plans for a state-of-the-art town park and amenity area, separate to the IRD facilities.
The issue of a playground for Kiltimagh was raised at the most recent meeting of the Castlebar Municipal District, held in the Cairn Centre in Kiltimagh last month.
Joe Kelly, CEO of the IRD, says the agency has offered to open up the playground for free if Mayo County Council can cover the facility’s running costs. The IRD would then operate the park on the council’s behalf.
However, KAP says the facility is just not suitable to be the town play area due to its location, with access through a narrow alleyway; limited car parking; and the fact that it only caters for children under 12 years of age.
Caroline McNicholas, a mother of four and member of KAP, says they now plan to campaign to secure funding as well as launching their own fundraising drive locally to develop a full scale amenity park on a suitable greenfield site, incorporating a children’s play area, multi-use games area, walking and cycling paths, and outdoor seating.
“The IRD did come forward with an offer,” said Ms McNicholas. “There is no divide there. But unfortunately, that facility is just not suitable.
“We don’t have anything in our town for our children,” she continued. “People feel we should now do it right and get a nice, safe, amenity park, which everyone can use and enjoy. We hope Mayo County Council will support us in this.”
Councillor Therese Ruane (SF ) has long been calling for free play facilities in Kiltimagh and said she plans to support the KAP campaign.
“There is a duty and onus on us, as a council, to right the wrong that has been done in Kiltimagh,” she said.
“It is shameful that there is no playground or amenities for young people and families in Kiltimagh like there is in every other town in the district.
“We need to make this a priority in the Castlebar Municipal District, to work together on this and ringfence money for the project.”
Cllr Ruane said opening up the IRD playground may be a good short-term measure to provide play facilities until the amenity park is developed. However, she said it cannot be the case that such an arrangement would see the plans for an amenity park put on the long finger.
Mr Kelly praised KAP for its strong community spirit in campaigning to bring new facilities to the town.
However, he questioned the logic of taking on the challenges of the timeframe and funding involved in developing a new park when a modern, fully equipped, facility already exists in Kiltimagh and could be delivered, free of charge, to the community within a matter of weeks in partnership with Mayo County Council.