In a Christmastime boost for one of Kerry's top visitor towns, Kenmare, a new public park opens tomorrow.
The amenity will stretch to parts of Kenmare Bay where, previously, there had been no direct access from the heart of the town.
The 13.7-acre site is originally part of a parcel of land known as the 'peninsula lands' on which a second town had been earmarked for development during the Celtic Tiger era.
However, plans for the overall 50-acre site ended up in receivership, and under the management of Nama.
An eight-year campaign saw Kerry County Council finally manage to acquire, earlier this year, just under a quarter of the greenfield site.
The cost factor has not been disclosed by the local authority but, locally, it is believed the outlay had been much less than the €500,000-an acre fetched at auction in 2005 when a local sawmilling family, the Arthurs, disposed of the property to developers.
As a state agency, the council had the first refusal on Nama-managed lands. However, in 2017, the council said it could not finalise the purchase as the receiver did not have vacant possession of the lands after a squatter’s rights claim was lodged, centring on reported grazing rights.
A public campaign “Protect our Peninsula Kenmare ” got underway and a petition secured over two thousand signatures in support of the site being in public ownership.
The matter was later resolved and a deal struck between the council and the receiver.
Meanwhile, from tomorrow, there will be direct access for the first time ever to Kenmare Bay from the town itself.
A master plan for the site is being developed at a later stage and funding is being sought from the Department of Rural and Community Development under the rural recreation programme.
Boating and other water-based activities will, most likely, be central to the plan alongside walking and cycling tracks.
Cllr Patrick Connor-Scarteen, who resides locally, was one of a number of individuals publicly thanked by the town’s chamber of commerce yesterday.
“At least, people now this Christmas can have a stroll around there. It’s a huge community effort,” the councillor said. The lands had been re-zoned as amenity from commercial and residential after moves by the councillor.
Meanwhile, Kenmare Chamber of Commerce has posted its thanks on social media, saying: “We would like to offer sincere thanks to Kerry County Council and the Peninsula Action Group (Patrick O'Connor-Scarteen, Mark Daly, Mickey Ned O'Sullivan, Rev Michael Cavanagh, Clare Thoma, John (PO) O'Sullivan, Cllr Dan McCarthy, Noel Crowley and Maureen Finnegan) for all their hard work and the dedication they showed to bring these lands into public ownership.”