The historic Marina riverside amenity in Cork has been pedestrianised for the summer, fuelling hopes that it could become permanent.
The step forward with a nod to the past restores the original purpose of the famous 19th promenade which takes its name from a similar area of reclaimed land in Sicily.
Following years of campaigning and several weekend trials last year, barriers were placed at either end of the Marina yesterday to facilitate pedestrian and cycling access only to the narrow road on the southern banks of the river Lee.
The road, from the entrance to Páirc Uí Chaoimh to the junction with Church Avenue, will remain closed to vehicular traffic 24 hours a day, seven days a week, until the end of August.
The temporary closure is subject to user compliance with social distancing public health guidelines, Cork City Council said.
Vehicle access will be allowed only or residents, businesses, and sporting clubs on the route.
The wider impacts of the measure will be assessed in September but any long-term pedestrianisation plan for the area will have to be considered in the context of the development of the proposed Marina Park next to Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
The move is one of several being introduced by the council as part of the city's phased emergence from the Covid-19 lockdown.
"We are asking people to be mindful of keeping their two-metre distance while enjoying the Marina and also not to forget the 5km rule when exercising," said the Lord Mayor of Cork, John Sheehan.
Much of the land on the south bank of the Lee from City Hall to Blackrock Castle is reclaimed slob land which emerged following the construction in the mid-1760s of a navigation wall to prevent the silting up of the river channel.
By the middle of the 19th century, the river channel was being dredged to allow larger ships access to the city, and the dredged material was deposited behind the navigation wall which compacted by 1870 to form the raised Marina walkway.
The Gaelic poet and scholar Donncha Ó Floinn's initial suggestion to Cork Corporation that it be named Slí na hAbhann - "pathway by the river" - was rejected.
But in 1872, he suggested it be named "The Marina" as had been done a few years earlier to reclaimed land near Palermo in Sicily. The name was formally adopted by the corporation in July 1872.
Meanwhile, the city council also confirmed yesterday that the pedestrianisation of Oliver Plunkett St will be reinstated on Monday as work continues to pedestrianise Paul St, Tuckey St and Pembroke St.
Additional bike stands will be installed and damaged bike stands repaired.
A deep clean of the city continues and power washing of streets in Douglas, Glanmire, Blarney and Ballincollig is under way.
Free on-street parking and free parking at the council’s two multi-storey car parks will continue in the short term to support essential workers.
Meanwhile, the Green Party has hit back at Fianna Fáil councillor Terry Shannon for branding Tramore Valley Park access campaigners as "whingers".
Councillor Oliver Moran said: "It's a disgraceful way to talk about the public at any time. It's embarrassing for the city."
Those campaigning for mobility improvements deserve to be treated with greater respect, he said.