Major upgrade of Denis Burke Park to make it focal point in Clonmel’s social amenities

An amphitheatre, performance platform, children’s playing area, boating and kayaking access and a water garden were just some of the exciting proposals presented to Clonmel Borough Council last week as part of the planned regeneration of Denis Burke Park. A year-and-a-half of brainstorming, workshops and public consultation culminated in a detailed presentation by Kenneth Hennessy of Kenneth Hennessy Architects Ltd. in Clonmel.

An amphitheatre, performance platform, children’s playing area, boating and kayaking access and a water garden were just some of the exciting proposals presented to Clonmel Borough Council last week as part of the planned regeneration of Denis Burke Park. A year-and-a-half of brainstorming, workshops and public consultation culminated in a detailed presentation by Kenneth Hennessy of Kenneth Hennessy Architects Ltd. in Clonmel.

Illustrating his presentation with a detailed map of park and images of the major design recommendations, the largest green space in Clonmel town centre was treated to a major face-lift which was very well received by council members. They have approved the draft design to go through the statutory process of allowing members of the public to view the proposed design and make their own submissions on it.

Mr Hennessy was given an extensive brief that required the park to be safe, flood resistant, to promote biodiversity and ecology and to provide a long-term, sustainable public amenity in the centre of Clonmel, among others. He explained that the main areas of focus included access to the park, various social spaces, mooring and boating, transforming the large flood wall into a feature wall, a woodland trail and a quayside walk. A potential connector bridge or pedestrian bridge from the park to the town centre is part of the overall master plan for the area and will be considered at some point in the future.

Mr Hennessy’s proposal would see the park transformed into a beautiful amenity where activities such as walking, picnicking, cycling, jogging, dog walking, fishing, wildlife appreciation and nature study, music, art and craft, gardening (including communal) and boating will, it is hoped, be commonplace.

The proposed design would see some areas in the park retain a more wild and natural appearance, while others would be more manicured and maintained with pathways defining different areas. The existing entrance on the Raheen Road would be extended while a new entrance would also be created. The boating and kayaking area would be located towards the Old Bridge end of the park, with the central area of the park occupied by a new play area as well as a dedicated area or camping enclosure to facilitate leisure and educational requirements of the local Girl Guides and Scouts.

The much needed play area would be an alternative to a conventional playground according to Mr Hennessy.

“It will be something that will require children to use their imagination about how they will play, it will be an alternative to the conventional swings and slides,” he said. A learning and development space, it would help children’s sensory and motor development, improve balance, co-ordination and promote more physical activity. The materials used will be durable and flood resistant.

The area near the Gashouse Bridge which currently has a natural steep slope, is an ideal location for the proposed amphitheatre - a large, curved terraced platform built into existing contours of the site, overlooking the river and a raised performance platform.

A proposed woodland area would see a meandering pathway lead from the entrance through the existing mature deciduous plantation with shadowy, rustic, narrow paths contrasting the wide, grassy areas of other parts of the park

A wildflower water garden along the river’s edge, promoting a diverse range of flora and fauna would create a tranquil and relaxing space.

In the process of redesigning the park, some existing young or damaged trees may have to be removed and these may be used as raw materials for some of the new furniture and fixtures in the park.

This draft design was completed following a lengthy consultation process, according to Mr Hennessy, which commenced 18 months ago when members of local community forum Suircan, realised the potential in the park and started to raise awareness of this by organising events both on and off site, seeking opinions and ideas from members of the public. Since then Suircan, with support from Clonmel Borough Council which also shared their vision, and the South Tipperary Heritage Office, have held a number of workshops and afternoons in the park with local groups and interested parties, a presentation was made at a River Suir seminar held in Carrick-on-Suir, a river cafe was set up during Junction Festival 2011, and a series of public design workshops also took place over three days in July 2012 which attracted a great deal of interest from members of the public who fed back varying opinions and views on what they would like to see happen with the park.

In welcoming the proposed design, town manager Sinead Carr said that it was important to recognise the work of Suircan.

“It is an excellent example of how the Borough Council and different agencies can work well together, and that is down to the leadership of that group [Suircan] which is very solution-focused and I would like to pass on my thanks to them

Cllr Pat English said that it was long overdue and that it was time to reclaim the park from the vandals and the beer drinkers. Cllr Richie Molloy suggested that in the interim, something temporary should be done to improve the park which he described as an eyesore and no-go area. While Cllr Brian O’Donnell said that he looked forward to seeing the park in all its glory.

The draft proposal will soon go on display for one month at the Town Hall in Clonmel. Members of the public will be able to make submissions on the proposal for a further two weeks. The proposed design will then come back before the council for their approval or disapproval.