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The Urban Green

“People are getting to talk to each other, people are getting to meet the new residents of the community, the new students. There’s nothing better than actually meeting once or twice then being able to meet them on the street, being able to meet a friendly face, which is very important,” says Richard Taplin, an enthused gardener telling what Bridgefoot Community Garden means to the people in the area.

“You know, even with lots of people around you, you can become very isolated,” he says.

The garden was started in 2015 by the community, for the community. It is run day to day by Taplin and a core of 10-12 members from the Men’s Shed, an organisation for people to meet, share skills and socialise.

“It’s a safe place so lads can come in and just hang out and get involved. It does great for your confidence, and it’s just good to get away from everything and participate in the community.”

There are 475 Men’s sheds in Ireland with one located on this site and another to be introduced to the Pimlico area soon.

Richard and his band of merry men are now facing a future of uncertainty. The Bridgefoot Community garden occupies a quarter of the site that is to be redeveloped into an urban park as part of the Dublin City Council’s Greening Strategy for the Liberties area. Consultations and workshops were held between local residents and construction workers on the park proposal resulting in the community beds being reinstated into the parks final design.

The Word Health Organisation suggests that every city should have nine, metre squared green spaces per person. Dublin’s Liberties has less than one metre squared per person. This is part of the reason why the DCC launched the Greening Strategy.

Tony O’Rourke of Oh Rourke’s diner at the bottom of Bridgefoot Street agrees. “We need a park. This is the most populated area of the city or the country. Let’s say, between Capel Street and Kilmainham there are 50 to 75 thousand people living in that space.” He added, “one of the things we have here is a sad lack of green space and a sad lack of sporting facilities.”

Locals felt that the consultations with the architect were inconclusive. Some of the concerns about the development included if the beds in the garden will need to be dug up and replanted elsewhere, if the local people will be involved in the build and queries of what will come of Bridgefoot’s beloved Men’s Shed.

Works were set to begin December of 2017 but they are yet to make a start. O’Rourke, chairman of the Park Committee, was involved in the consultations with the developers and believes “because they are doing St. Audean’s park at the moment, I don’t think they are going to develop two or three parks together, so they’re putting one back.” The foreman at St. Audean’s, Kevin, told a Liberty reporter that he predicts work on that park to conclude by end of March.

Dermot Foley, the architect for the new Bridgefoot Park stated, “I cannot say exactly when we will start on site…we have completed all of the detail design and are now working with our quantity surveyor to prepare the full set of documents which will be required for Dublin City Council to get prices from building contractor, and we would hope to be on site later this year.”

Regarding the design, Mr. Foley said that it had been worked on in far more detail but has not changed fundamentally.

Most of the local residents are in favour of the new park, but hope it’s construction won’t ruin the good work the garden has done for the community and the people in it.

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