Terryland Forest Park: - Reclaiming Community Ownership

Some of the people that planted trees in Terryland Forest Park
The recent community planting in Terryland Forest Park shows that a strong empathy for nature is still strong amongst the ordinary everyday inhabitants of Ireland.

Saturday April 27th was organised as One Million Trees in One Day initiative involving individuals and groups from all across Ireland. Unfortunately, the national organisers  encountered logistical and funding problems that made this dream impossible. Most of the local participating groups and individuals sadly only got a fraction of the trees that they expected. Nevertheless it was a brave and ambitious attempt at doing something that would allow people everywhere to make a positive contribution in safeguarding the environment.
I was overawed and emotionally touched by all of the people that travelled to Terryland Forest Park from the four corners of county Galway to collect trees for planting on their farms, streets, schools, gardens town streets and village greens, neighbourhoods and localities. 
These people came from all walks of life- farmers, youth, retired folks, families, community activists, sports organisers… They came from Gort, Peterswell, Rosmuc, Athenry, Tuam, Milltown,  Ballinasloe, Abbeyknockmoy, Cahergal,  Barna, Galway city, Carna…
Tom O'Connell & family at the Terryland Plantathon
They accrued no money for doing what they did. But they had personified a belief that we as members of the human race have to give something back to nature, to do something no matter how small to undo the harm that successive generations have done to the environment and to help provide sanctuaries for wildlife.  Native Irish Trees, defined as those that came naturally into Ireland at the end of the Ice Age, are rich in biodiversity. An Oak Tree for instance can be home to up to 450 different types of plants, fungi, insects, birds and mammals. 
Terryland Plantathon volunteers
On Saturday, Terryland Forest Park was once again the scene for the planting of hundreds of native Irish trees by families and individuals. It was a return to the heyday of this unique urban parkland during the early part of the last decade. For a strong spirit of community was self evident in the numbers of people of all ages that happily turned up to plant Holly, Alder, Oak, Silver Birch, Hazel, Rowan, Blackthorn and Hawthorn. To compensate for the smaller number of trees than expected that arrived from One Million Trees in One Day’ Wicklow, landscaper Brian Lohan from Corrandula donated hundreds of native Irish specimen.

Reconditioned Spades, Rakes & Shovels made for Terryland Forest by Cumann na bhFear
The shovels, spades and forks used by the volunteers were all garden implements  recycled and repaired by the members of Cumann na bhFear (Men’s Shed) who are part of the Terryland Forest Park NGO alliance. 
April 27th will hopefully be seen as a Red Letter Day in the history of what was once the largest urban forest park project in Ireland. It was when the people of Galway city and county reconnected with this ambitious green development managed by Galway City Council parks department. 
Irish, Russian and Czech volunteers at the Terryland Plantathon
Today, the forest has a myriad of social and natural problems due to vandalism, road network, pollution and neglect. But it has now turned a corner and the park is once gain being reclaimed by the good people of Galway as their own.
But the One Million Trees in One Day was only one of many activities associated with the Park during that week.
Maidhc Danín Ó Sé , James Harrold, Michael Longley and Brendan Smith at the Cúirt Planting
Revival of Celtic Bardic Tradition
Most notable was the inaugural Cúirt tree planting at the Terryland Forest Park at 11.00 on Thursday April 25th. Thanks to the vision of James Harrold Galway City Arts Officer supported by Stephen Walsh of Galway City Parks, Michael Longley and Maidhc Danín Ó Sé were the first writers to plant trees on what will become over time a Poets’ Nature Walkway along the banks of the River Corrib close to the Black Box. It is appropriate that the reconnection of the world of the Irish literati with Trees occurs in Galway, a city that has for decades kept alive the ancient Celtic bardic respect for Mother Earth. Here in this urban landscape, environmentalists and artists often came from the same womb and shared the same belief.

Tom Cuffe is a well-known local expert in natural heritage studies, always in high demand from schools across Galway city and county.
Every Saturday at 2.30pm, he undertakes, within the grounds of the Terryland Forest Park, a transect for the national Butterfly and Bee monitoring survey .
Associated with this initiative, Tom is photographing the amazing variety of wildlife that inhabits the woods, parks and riverbanks within the park’s boundaries including Sedge Warblers, Redpoll, Moorhen, Long tailed Tits, Hoverflies, Peacocks, Large Whites and Tortoiseshells, Lady’s Smock and Lesser Celandine.

Caroline McDonagh, Michael Tiernan & Michael McDonnell with High Nelly bikes in Terryland Forest Park
High Nelly Bike Restoration
A fleet of High Nelly bicycles are being lovingly restored by Cumann na bhFear (Men’s Shed) in preparation for their use from late June onwards by visitors within the Terryland Forest Park and for Slí na gCaisleán (‘The Way of the Castles’) a developing Greenways linking Galway city with the rural landscapes of east county Galway. The 25 mile looped cycle route will start and end at the Terryland Castle.
A number of these High Nelly bikes were showcased at last month’s St. Patrick Day’s Parade.

Remedial Works in May/June period

Repair and reconstruction of park features are being carried out weekly by volunteers and Tús workers in association with Galway City Partnership  . The works include rebuilding of traditional dry stone wall field perimeters, laying out new paths, painting a mural on the Conservation Volunteers depot, litter collection, painting of bridges and benches, erection of new information signage etc.
Senator Trevor Ó Clochartaigh & daughter at Terryland Plantathon
Operating from their new HQ shed located at the Sandy Road entrance to the Park, Conservation Volunteers Terryland will have a permanent weekly presence in the Park. Between 1.30 and 2.20pm every Satruday, clean-ups will take place.

The Big Forest Repair & Clean-Up Day: Saturday June 15th
On Saturday June 15th, Conservation Volunteers Terryland will organise a mass community clean-up from 10am until 12.30pm that will involve litter picking, boundary wall repair, cleaning graffiti of signage, painting of the HQ shed etc.

The Tasks

Sandy River Bridge: Repainting of Metal railings and removal of commercial signage

Construction of a Pedestrian Entrance in the wall of the Sandy Road Carpark (leading into the Terryland Forest Park)

Constructing a Pathway 

Repairing the Terryland Forest Park stone wall entrance at Sandy Road

Repainting the Park Seats & Benches

Painting a Giant Forest Themed Mural on Conservation Volunteers' Shed

Cleaning Graffiti of Terryland Forest Park signage

Litter Picking

Zero Tolerance Policy Towards Anti-Social Drinking

Huge amounts of damage are being done every week to parks, waterways, graveyards, forests and seashores across Ireland. The culprits can be a minority of young oftentimes underage drinkers of alcohol who gather in groups around campfires fueled by tyres as well as wood ripped off neighbouring trees. But there are also families and senior citizens from private and council housing who regularly dump their domestic waste in public green spaces. 
By their wanton destruction of mainly taxpayer-payer funded property, they are turning larges sections of parks into no-go areas for the general public.
The clean-ups that we are carrying out are treating the symptoms and not the cause of this endemic societal problem. 
By inaction, the Irish state sadly accepts this behaviour as a normal part of modern life. Such toleration only adds to ordinary people's growing disillusionment with a government that it seems is not working in the interests of the common people. 
In most other countries across Europe, a zero-tolerance policy towards such mindless thuggery is implemented. The result is that parks and forests are clean and welcoming environments for all people of all ages to enjoy.
So it is time that we collectively demand an end to the stranglehold that the anti-patriotic, aggressive selfish criminals have on Ireland. It is our country not theirs! 

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