Taoiseach Micheál Martin officially opened Cork’s newest park on Sunday which will be equivalent in size to Dublin Zoo when its second phase is completed.
Mr Martin told a large gathering of families at the opening of phase one of the Marina Park, that the project is of special significance to him as he remembers walking in the area as a young boy.
“It (the park) will become the jewel in the crown. It is a bit of a personal journey for me. This location is historic. But as a young boy, the age of some of the kids here, we came down these roads…Monaghan Road, Centre Park Road, if you were going to a match in the old Athletic grounds.
He said that during the recent lockdown people came to rediscover the location as the "heartbeat of recreation and touching base with nature".
“The use of outdoor spaces during the pandemic in particular was extremely important for the wellbeing and health of people. This project is going to be a powerful aspect in that respect."
Looking to phase two and three of the project the Taoiseach said efforts would continue to seek to retain the built heritage, the biodiversity, and the historic elements of this area.
“Ultimately we want people from the lower harbour and vice versa to be in a position to walk the whole way up or cycle the whole way up away altogether from the mainstream roads right into the city centre itself.”
Marina Park will be six times larger than Cork’s Fitzgerald’s Park when phase two is completed. The 146 hectare Cork Docklands is the largest regeneration project in the country.
As part of the official opening ceremony, the Taoiseach planted an Irish native tree, the wild cherry while pupils from the Green School Committees in nearby Ballintemple National School, St Michael’s Church of Ireland National School and Scoil na Croise Naofa planted pollinator plants.
Marina Park is just 2.5 kilometres cycle or walk from the city centre. Phase One was funded with a €3.5 million grant from the European Regional Development Fund’s Southern and Eastern Regional Operational Programme 2014-20 managed by the Southern Regional Assembly.
The Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government also awarded a €2.5 million grant to the project under the LIHAF Programme with the remaining funding coming from Cork City Council resources.
Cork City Council chief executive Ann Doherty said the 146-hectare docklands will provide homes for over 20,000 and more than 25,000 jobs over the next 20 years with best in class transportation, public spaces, schools, medical and social services, restaurants, hotels and recreation facilities.
“This project will grow the heart of Cork City," she added.
The second and final phase of the Marina Park project is due to go to public consultation later this summer.
Phase 2 will extend from The Atlantic Pond to Church Avenue and will include the "Nature" zone of the park, accommodating picnic areas, boating facilities, adventure play areas, preserved marshland zone and several architectural heritage sites.