Call for Local Communities to Initiate Annual Green Calendar of Park Festivals, Picnics & Nature Tours in Galway City

A meeting of community groups organised by ‘Galway Friends of the Forest’ will take place at 7.30pm on Wednesday January 26th in the Menlo Park Hotel in a new initiative designed to encourage increased engagement by communities and schools with leisure parklands and wildlife habitats in their localities.

Green Calendar for Galway City

Members of resident associations, environmental groups and other community organisations are asked to attend to start the process of laying down the framework and events to fill up an annual ‘green’ calendar for Galway city that hopefully will benefit tourism, energise local communities involvement with their green spaces by tapping into local heritage knowledge and involve them (& schools) in protecting the wonderful but often threatened areas of natural physical beauty and biodiversity that exist within our urban boundaries.

Galway County's Golden Mile

In the process, consideration will be given to following the example of the neighbouring local authority who have pioneered the ‘Golden Mile’ programme across the villages and roadways of county Galway which successfully involves farmers and other locals in restoring the natural ecology and social heritage of the rural landscape. In so doing the scheme has helped engender a sense of collective pride amongst local inhabitants towards their historical inheritance.

City Hall officials and researchers from the School of Geography at NUI Galway and the School of Architecture University of Limerick will also be in attendance at next week’s meeting to outline some concepts that they have on increasing community engagement with green spaces such as the Terryland Forest Park.

A good presence is vital for this initiative as it represents a golden opportunity to unite with diverse communities across the city, tap into further NUIG expertise, reconnect with progressive elements in City Hall and come up with something innovative (Green Calendar) that can benefit all of the people (& tourists) of Galway.

Sunday Park Picnics, Heritage Cycle Tours, Nature Walks, Harvest Festivals....

It is envisaged that the proposed calendar could include a series of coordinated community tree plantings as well as nature walks along the seashores, rivers and/or woodlands in every locality during Springtime; Family Picnics in the city’s major parks, workshops on old traditional skills such as stonewalling and the ‘Off the Beaten Track’ heritage cycle tours that already take place in the rural landscapes of Menlo and Castlegar over the summer months; berry picking and bulb plantings by school children, arts fetes, ‘boreen’ and community garden harvest festivals in the autumn; local residents’ clean-ups of green spaces and hedgerow coppicing during the winter months.

As it is, there are already in existence a lot of excellent ‘green’ initiatives involving neighbourhoods and particularly schools happening across the city supported by a diverse range of agencies and institutions including Galway City Council, An Taisce, Galway Education centre, RAPID, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Birdwatch, Galway Civic Trust, Galway Bat Group, NUIG and Atlantaquaria.

There are also plans by City Hall to finally put in place a city-wide pedestrian and cycle ‘greenways’ infrastructure.

Time to Unite!

Hence it is a good time to coordinate the different eco-programmes under a shared calendar and exploit the potential of parks and woodlands to develop a network of outdoor classrooms for our schools and of outdoor scientific laboratories for our third level research institutes of such parks as is the case to a small degree with the multi-habitat Terryland Forest.

Destruction of Galway's Natural Heritage

But it has too be admitted that too much of our natural heritage areas are increasingly threatened by illegal dumping, encroachment by built development, pollution, and anti-social behaviour.

Hence many people feel threatened by our forests and parks.

Way Forward: Involving Local Communities

Encouraging local communities to hold events in green spaces and involving them in the management of these areas, as was the case years ago through the Terryland Forest Steering Committee and could be again through similar schemes and the introduction of a conservation volunteer movement, would engender a sense of local pride and decrease opportunities for anti-social activity such as bush drinking.

The local authority also has responsibilities under local, national and international legislation to preserve, protect and manage our natural habitats, hedgerows, the traditional drystone walls network, overcome habitat fragmentation by creating ecological corridors or green highways for wildlife.

Sadly in spite of the best efforts of many people within the parks and enviroment sections of City Hall, this is not happening to the extent that it should. Galway city is the least forested city in the least forested country in the European Union.

So we earnestly hope that interested parties would now come together to develop a new multi-sectoral partnership involving City Hall, residents associations, active retirement groups, organic garden committees, schools, third level institutions, community campaigners, environmentalists and state agencies that could produce a coordinated annual city-wide eco-programme for all ages that would make us the envy of the rest of Ireland.

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