So, there was my wife a couple of weeks ago over in New York improving her personal best for the marathon while I single handedly kept the show on the road back home. And in order to assuage her overwhelming guilt at abandoning us for a week she did manage to bring me home a present, a book on The High Line in New York city.
Now I have spoken about The High Line before, based on a surface knowledge and reading a range of magazine articles, but the book on the subject really brings home what an achievement it is. A triumph of vision and execution.
And what it really emphasises is that the potential is everywhere. An elevated section of disused and derelict freight railway line is possibly the most unlikely premise from which you would start to try to create an awe inspiring urban green way, but it has been done. And it can be done, anywhere.
I have drawn parallels between The High Line and Promenade Plantee in Paris, a similarly visionary piece of urban planning and execution.
And it has all prompted me to ponder where our High Line could be? What could we repurpose to similar effect both on the physical environment and the spiritual well- being of its users.
Well I suppose to a certain extent we already have. We have the Great Western Greenway in Mayo and the Deise Greenway in Waterford. Both take advantage of pre-existing, albeit derelict or unused, infrastructure and repurpose them in a way that responds directly to a gaping need in our lives nowadays; wholesome, immersive, pan generational outdoor amenities.
Great projects which clearly illustrate that we can do it when we feel like it. Which makes what follows all the more confusing.
I am not from Naas, but I grew up about ten miles away. Lots of my school friends were from Naas and I spent a good deal of time there years ago. I work in Naas from time to time and consider myself to be quite familiar with the town. Which is why news of the very existence of the De Burgh lands as described by Paul O’ Meara in last week’s Leader came as something of a shock to me. I had never heard of them.
I read Paul’s two pieces, steadied myself on the furniture and said right ‘‘take a deep breath, sit down and process this’’. OK, so let’s get this straight says I to myself; Kildare County Council has fifteen acres of mature woodland with several pre-existing walking trails, a waterfall and a lake a few minutes’ walk from the centre of its county town and the gates cannot be opened to the public because of something undefined to do with, eh, funding.
According to one of Paul’s pieces ‘’KCC says a ‘masterplan’ is being prepared for 15 acres of amenity land owned by it at Oldtown Demesne. However, until this is completed it is not possible to say when the lands will be ready to be opened up to the public. KCC says the lands are a ‘valuable community asset’ and it is KCC’s intention ‘to use them in that capacity’.’’ Jaysus, that’s reassuring, they intend to use them in that capacity rather than turn them into a monster moto cross circuit.
So, a masterplan is being prepared which, of course, sounds promising. Until you learn that the arrangement to designate this land for public use is 15 years old. It must be some plan. Could it be that the Council have appointed a team of Master Stonemasons to painstakingly etch the plans onto giant limestone tablets to be displayed at Devoy Park as part of some deranged consultation process? That could be why it’s taking so long, but I doubt it. Skewed priorities and institutional apathy are probably closer to the mark.
Have you heard the one about the Council that was handed fifteen acres of practically ready to go mature woodland amenity space minutes from the centre of its county town, spent fifteen years preparing a plan, then cited lack of money as grounds for depriving the public access to it?
Gas, isn’t it?