The gates of Cork’s landmark Fitzgerald Park will be thrown open today as its long-awaited €2.3m facelift is unveiled.
City officials are confident that despite almost two years of controversy associated with the cost of celebrity gardener Diarmuid Gavin’s Sky Garden, taxpayers will be impressed with how their money has been spent revamping the park to incorporate the Avatar-inspired garden.
They have laid on a weekend of free family-friendly entertainment to celebrate the largest investment in the park in a century, and encouraged people to “come and see”.
“This weekend will showcase what the ‘new’ Fitzgerald Park can be,” said the park’s project engineer, Aoife O’Mahony.
“It will be full of activity, music and fun and visitors will be able to see at first-hand how we have integrated Mardyke Gardens with Fitzgerald Park; the old with the new.
“The changes really enhance the park experience and anyone who has had a sneak preview of the improvements has been bowled over by their positive impact. We would love families to come, to bring picnics and to stay for a few hours over the weekend.”
The key elements of Gavin’s Sky Garden, which won gold at the 2011 Chelsea Garden, have been installed on the riverbank near the museum.
Its signature flying pod, which was slung from a crane in Chelsea, has been refurbished, painted pink, and installed on elevated stilts to provide a spectacular viewing platform over the River Lee, near the city museum.
The pod is the centrepiece of a gallery garden which wraps around a new cafe and terrace. A central feature of this space is a series of stainless steel spheres and domes set among paths and planting arrangements from the original Chelsea garden.
Other features include a new performance bandstand under a sweeping curved canopy set in front of a sunken lawn, the development of a Victorian walled garden, an upgrade of the main park entrance, and a new plaza associated with an upgrade to the museum entrance area.
The park’s ornamental pond and Fr Matthew Fountain, dating from the Cork Exhibition of 1902, have already been restored.
The entire scheme was 80%-funded by Fáilte Ireland.
Activities in the park this weekend include musical acts, circus performances, rappers, face painting, yoga classes, and graffiti demonstrations running from noon to 6pm. A showcase on the 1902 Great Exhibition, from which the park derived many of its features, will run in the museum.