St. Catherine’s Park (also known as Lucan Demesne) has a history stretching back over 800 years to the time of the Normans. It has always been parkland and woods. Today it is a valuable amenity of over 200 acres of open spaces and ancient woodlands (ref 1) within the Liffey Valley, itself protected by a Special Area Amenity Order (ref 2). (Fingal only has two of these SAAOs). The demesne was purchased in 1996 by our current president, Michael D Higgins.(ref 3) The aim, according to an official Fingal Co. Co. policy document, was to “produce a core site for the establishment of a multi-county Liffey Valley Regional Park.” (ref 4)
The park is hugely popular with a wide catchment. People come from many parts of Dublin, Kildare and Meath to enjoy the dog park (one of the best available), the state-of-the-art childrens’ playground, the playing pitches, the BMX track, not to mention miles of walks in open grassland, along the banks of the Liffey, or beneath the tree canopy. It is also home to some wonderful wildlife too; buzzards, jays and owls make their homes here, as do some rare plants. The river and the variety of habitats in one relatively small area make it popular for numerous bat species, all of which are protected by law.
Locals know all this. People have been coming here for years. Which is why it was easy to raise money recently in order to fund some of the park improvements. The total investment was €660,000, most of which came from Fingal LEADER funding, but the local community easily reached their target of €33,000. Local businesses like Intel also donated funds.
None of which explains plans to put a large road through our park. In May of this 2017, nearly 1,000 submissions were handed in to Kildare Co. Co. against proposals to develop the Confey area of Leixlip that require this road for access, and instead asking them to protect the park. Over 1,500 people marched in the park to protest against this road, and to date, over 2,500 petitions have been signed.
This is not a case of NIMBYism. To paraphrase one comment on The Journal (ref 5) (in relation to an article on this proposed road), this isn’t a case of ‘not in my back yard’, but actually having any back yard left to play in.
1. Due to the long continuity of records of woodland occurring on the site, St. Catherine’s wood may potentially be classified as ancient woodland, making it a site of extreme importance for conservation as ancient woodland (or documented ancient woodland) is exceptionally rare in Ireland. The existence of a number of ancient woodland indicator species (Peterken, 1979, Rackham, 1980) in the ground flora also supports the status of St Catherine’s as ancient woodland (Bohan, 1998).
2. The objective of the Special Amenity Area Order is primarily to protect outstanding landscapes, nature and amenities. They gained initial legal backing under the local authorities (Planning and Development) Act 1963 and subsequent amendments.