Critical path: Tensions blow up over preferred route for Cork's Lee to Sea greenway

Decision to route path along busy road rather than on the waterside have angered some — but residents have defended the choice
Critical path: Tensions blow up over preferred route for Cork's Lee to Sea greenway

The plan to link existing routes to form a 45km walking and cycling path through Cork City and County has run into controversy on the Rochestown Rd, near Harty's Quay on the Douglas Estuary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

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.

'Disappointment' at roadside route

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?

There has been broad support for the Lee to Sea route from the woods at Innsicarra through Cork City to Crosshaven — but an issue has blown up over the choice of one section of the route.
There has been broad support for the Lee to Sea route from the woods at Innsicarra through Cork City to Crosshaven — but an issue has blown up over the choice of one section of the route.

“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. 

'Future-proof safety of greenway users'

"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. 

It is time to future-proof the safety of generations of greenway users by building a car-free greenway on the coast as the public has stated. 

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.

'Where will they park?'

“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. 

The most pressing issue for Pat O'Riordan of Cinnamon Cottage is congestion: 'A greenway will attract more people. Where will they park?'
The most pressing issue for Pat O'Riordan of Cinnamon Cottage is congestion: 'A greenway will attract more people. Where will they park?'

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?"

'The road is much too fast'

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.

But, two weeks ago, I brought my daughter along that stretch towards Passage. It’s only about 300m but it’s treacherous. I’ll never bring her there again. 

"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.

I find it difficult to understand how anyone could make a decision to run the greenway along the roadside. 

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.

The former railway bridge which now forms part of the popular walking and cycling route linking the Marina near Cork City centre to Rochestown on the far side of the Douglas Estuary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare
The former railway bridge which now forms part of the popular walking and cycling route linking the Marina near Cork City centre to Rochestown on the far side of the Douglas Estuary. Picture: Eddie O'Hare

“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.

And it's not just the resident’s exceptionally valid security concerns, it’s also a special protection area — the bird sanctuary has been there for decades and the area is protected under EU law. 

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.

I firmly believe that the end result will be a very satisfactory result for everybody.

“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.

They should not be vilified for wanting to keep their homes secure.  

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