New eco-park a testament to resilience of Limerick community

New eco-park is a testament to resilience of Limerick community

Jim Mulcahy showing the Flowers and Cabbages at Killeedy Eco Park | PICTURES: Brendan Gleeson

EVEN on a damp, summer’s day, Killeedy Eco-Park exerts a strong charm.

The eye is drawn up and over the clear water of the small lakes; the wildflowers are cheerfully abundant, 4,000 newly-planted tree saplings already define the shape of things to come and at the heart, the four reed-beds do their job, quietly but for a slight rustling in the breeze.

But more than anything, this eco-park is a testament to resilience, to a can-do attitude and to hope. And it is unique.

It was born out of the devastation left when the nearby Kantoher Poultry plant closed in 2005, with the loss of hundreds of livelihoods in Killeedy and neighbouring parishes.

Out of that bruising experience came the Kantoher Development Group and an ambitious and far-reaching regeneration plan for Killeedy and its twin centres of Ashford and Raheenagh.

While the main aim of the regeneration plan was to foster enterprise and sustainable jobs, it was clear that providing the infrastructure needed to support this aim was crucial. And one of the first essential pieces of infrastructure identified was a sewerage treatment plant to service the Kantoher Business Park which the plan also envisaged.

The solution was to develop an innovative and eco-friendly reed-bed plant in the old ponds or lagoons once used by the poultry plant.

These are now fully operational, says Joe Kelleher, secretary of the Kantoher Development Group. But the vision for the 13-acre site was eco-friendly in its fullest sense and the plan, now almost fully realised, also includes a series of walking trails, an amphitheatre, a wildlife reserve and an extensive planting scheme.

“We are very happy with it. It has turned out exactly as we had hoped,” Mr Kelleher said. Each Saturday, a group of 30-plus volunteers arrive to carry out jobs and maintenance. And there has also been a huge community buy-in through the raised vegetable beds and through the naming and allocation of each grove of trees to the different townlands in the parish.

Ironically, Covid-19 and the different lockdowns also played a part. “It was an ideal place for people to come,” Mr Kelleher explained. “It became a real hive of activity.”

And during the recent heatwave, the eco-park had its very own “Ballybunion in Killeedy” moment on its tiny man-made beach.

The next phase, Mr Kelleher said, will involve linking the two villages to the sewerage treatment plant. This, he explained, was crucial as it will open up the way for new houses to be built in both Raheenagh and Ashford.

The model they are looking at, he continued, would most likely be the provision of serviced sites, with all housing adhering to an overall Village Design Statement.

Another aspect of the eco-park will be the holding of outdoor concerts and other entertainment in the amphitheatre and it will also provide the ideal location for nature-classes and for foraging expeditions and orienteering fun for children.

Later this year, it is hoped to have a footpath linking the eco-park to Raheenagh village ready for use. And in the not-too-distant future, the eco-park will be linked up with the highly popular Ashford/Broadford Walking Trails, via a walk through the fields and along the banks of the Banoke river.

Ultimately, the goal is to link up with the Limerick Greenway at Barnagh, opening the way for off-road walking and cycling all the way to Feenit.

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