Cork City Council has defended itself against accusations it is “destroying” habitats and biodiversity along the route of the Passage West Railway Greenway.
It has come under fire over the number of trees that have been chopped down along the route.
But the council insists a number of them were actually dead anyway and any loss of habitat because of the tree felling will be offset by newer trees planted in place of them.
Work on turning the old Blackrock to Passage West railway line into the Passage West Railway Greenway linking Cork city to Carrigaline started about two weeks ago.
The project is designed to improve the greenway as a dedicated cycling and walking route to and from Cork city and Cork harbour.
In February, the council stated it aims to "increase the greenway’s function as an avenue for biodiversity/wildlife and green space".
And it said it is also designed "to protect and enhance the ecological, environmental, architectural and archaeological heritage along the route".
People have, however, been shocked to notice piles of felled trees along the Marina area in recent days.
They include one of University College Cork’s most eminent lecturers, the plant scientist, Dr Eoin Lettice.
He posted on Twitter photos taken of the Marina area of Blackpool, Cork city, saying: “Scenes at the Marina today are a little worrying, to say the least.”
And Dr Lettice, who Principal Investigator at the School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences at UCC added: “The creation of a 'greenway' by destroying habitats and biodiversity.”
The tweet was retweeted nearly 200 times and led to a string of comments voicing concern at the number of trees that had been chopped down.
Scenes at the Marina today are a little worrying, to say the least. The creation of a 'greenway' by destroying habitats and biodiversity. And still no sign of the Trees Officer for @corkcitycouncil, as promised. pic.twitter.com/qZDPEArGo2— Dr Eoin Lettice 🇺🇦 #standwithUkraine (@eoinlettice) March 13, 2021
Labour local area representative in Blackrock Peter Horgan said: “Do we want something that is prim and proper without a single leaf out of place, or do we want somewhere with the wildness of nature at the heart of it?
“I would say people want the latter, and would be happy to walk around trees to get to where they need to get to.”
Cork City Council says works on the Mahon to Marina section of the wider city centre to Passage West Greenway project is “designed to minimise the impact on the existing natural habitat during construction while also improving the natural environment upon completion of the project”.
And they state: “Ecologists have overseen the design of this project which will see the planting of 65 semi-mature native Irish trees and 2,000-plus tree saplings.”
These will, the council says, replace the 46 trees that had to be removed to improve access — some of which were “dead trees at risk of falling” and “poor quality trees”.
They added: “An ecologist was on site supervising the works for the full duration of the clearance activities."
“Extensive surveys were undertaken in advance of the works, and careful checks were completed prior to the commencement of works to minimise any negative effects on wildlife.
“Cork City Council at all times seeks to avoid unnecessary felling of trees.
“We were advised by our ecology teams that any loss in habitat will be more than mitigated by the extensive number of new replacement trees which will be planted along the greenway."