Tensions over a proposed greenway have heightened after Cork City Council's decision to route a section of the proposed Lee to Sea greenway alongside a busy road rather than on the shores of the Douglas Estuary.
Campaigners for the cycle and walkway wanted it developed on the water's edge rather than on the Rochestown Rd, but some residents whose gardens back onto the estuary objected.
Cork City Council now plans to upgrade the Rochestown Rd instead with a separate path for the greenway running alongside it.
A statement from the Rochestown Area Business & Residents Association said it was “very disappointed” that Cork City Council “chose to ignore 75% of those who partook in the public consultation process who stated a preference for a coastal greenway.”
“The preferred route along the road seems like a roads project which is manipulating greenway funding that is available from central Government,” the association said. “Is this truly value for public expenditure?
“We do not see this as a safe greenway with cars driving on to a so-called greenway. A greenway is a walkway and cycleway free of cars.
"This portion of the lee2sea is the only section between the soon-to-be-opened Marina Park and Passage West where cars will continue to pose a risk.
Cork Harbour is a special protection area under EU directives as a sanctuary for birdlife. The waterway route was partially rejected on these grounds.
However, the Rochestown Area Business & Residents Association said that marinas have been built elsewhere in Cork Harbour, which still respect the natural environment —so a safe, environmentally sensitive, structure could also be built along the estuary shoreline.
“Cork City Council still has an opportunity to create a landmark coastal greenway that would be the envy of everyone in Ireland and indeed internationally,” the association said.
For local business owner, Pat O’Riordan, who runs the popular Cinnamon Cottage bakery, deli, and cafe next to the proposed greenway, the most pressing problem is parking.
“The greenway is on everybody’s lips coming into the shop,” Mr O’Riordan said. "The plan as it stands is farcical.
“Our main issue has always been parking, and a greenway will attract more people. Where will they park?"
Local resident Dave Farrell said that the stretch of road where the new pathway is planned is currently too dangerous to take his eight-year-old daughter.
“My primary concerns are safety. That road is much too fast," he said. “Since Covid, we’ve had the opportunity to get out more as a family and it’s been a revelation to discover what’s on our doorstep.
"Cars were parked on the footpath, people were reversing out their driveways, people were driving fast on the road. It’s not safe for a child to cycle on.
“It’s a shame because the rest of the walkway is beautiful. and it’s stunningly beautiful along the estuary. For that not to be utilised for the greenway seems like a travesty.
“I would be very respectful of the people living there but surely with a small bit of creativity it could be designed so it did not impede on them too much.
However, Liz Horgan, who has lived in the now contested area for more than 45 years, said that all 32 houses in the area had “grave concerns” about running a greenway along the bottom of their gardens.
“We were so relieved when the council chose another option,” she said. “We weren’t kicking up a fuss about nothing. We had serious safety and security concerns. And Lough Mahon is a protected area with beautiful wildlife.
“The greenway would have seriously impacted on our lives.
“We are a community of givers. We maintain the area, we’re giving some of our common area and parking spaces for this new plan. But how would other people feel if it was going at the bottom of their garden?"
Fianna Fáil local councillor Mary Rose Desmond said that the plans were complicated and nuanced.
“Some of those houses have vehicular access from the back. A greenway at the back would run very close to their houses and they have very reasonable safety concerns," she said.
She said the Council-sanctioned plans involve major changes to the Rochestown Rd which "will benefit everyone".
“The whole area will be reimagined. It’s not that a pathway will just be chicaned onto the existing road, and it is a very small section.
“Would we all like to walk along the water's edge? Yes, we would. But it’s not always possible.
“These homes are already there. They’re historical homes, they’ve been there for generations. And the residents have looked after the area when no one else did, reclaiming the river, planting, maintaining common ground.