Cork’s city manager has moved to “finally nail” suggestions that celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin’s flying pod cost taxpayers €2.3m.
Tim Lucey was speaking after city councillors formally agreed to press ahead with the previously announced €1.8m plan to revamp Fitzgerald Park.
It includes the installation of a scaled-down version of Mr Gavin’s Sky Garden in one section of the park.
However, health and safety issues will prevent the inclusion of a crane to suspend the flying pod, which is likely to be installed on stilts.
The Avatar-inspired garden won gold at the Chelsea Flower Show but its signature pod, slung from a crane, has been in storage in Cork’s Showgrounds for months awaiting the green light for the park revamp.
Mr Lucey told councillors there had been a constant stream of reports over the last year suggesting the steel pod cost €2.3m.
“I want to finally nail that rumour,” he said. “It didn’t cost that much. The fact of the matter is that the design of the pod cost between €25,000 and €30,000.”
The rest of the money was spent on other elements of the garden for its showcase in Chelsea, and the rest will be spent on the revamp of Fitzgerald Park, he said.
Phase one of the project — the design, build and display of the garden at Chelsea — cost €567,280.
Fáilte Ireland, which is funding 83% of the project, spent €430,153 while Cork City Council spent €137,127.
Phase two — the relocation of the garden in Fitzgerald’s Park, its revamp, and the development of the Mardyke Gardens attraction in the park — will cost just over €1.8m.
Gavin’s garden will be incorporated into the northern end of the park, in a site between the ornamental pond and fountain, and the banks of the River Lee.
As part of the park’s revamp, its fountain and pond, which date from 1902, will be restored, a Victorian fruit and vegetable garden will be built, and the park’s military bandstand will be refurbished as a public performance space.
The revamped Mardyke Gardens, with Mr Gavin’s garden as its centrepiece, will, in the long term, form part of a horticultural trail including the formal president’s garden at University College Cork, Bishop Lucey Park, Fota Arboretum and Gardens, Blarney Castle Gardens, and a number of private gardens.
A spokesman for Fáilte Ireland said the agency was confident the trail would become an iconic tourist attraction for the city and help entice more UK visitors.
“If it attracts to Cork just 527 new overseas visitors a year, and 2,695 day trippers a year, for the next 20 years, then their spend will more than cover the investment in this project,” he said.
“Once it is installed, the negative publicity will fade away and Cork will realise what an asset it is for the city.”
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