Council urged to buy Cork Dominican retreat centre and use it as a public park 

The sale of a Dominican retreat centre on the northside of Cork city has raised calls for the city council to buy the property in order to provide a much-needed park for the area.
Council urged to buy Cork Dominican retreat centre and use it as a public park 

Some of the gardens at St Dominic's Retreat Centre Ennismore, Montenotte, Cork. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Calls have been made for a Dominican retreat centre to be bought by Cork City Council and used as a much-needed park for the local area.

Ennismore, a busy Dominican retreat centre visited by thousands of school students every year which also provides innovative programmes for asylum seekers and people living in direct provision, is to be put up for sale in the coming weeks.

The area around Ennismore in Montenotte is zoned for a park under the new city development plan and would immediately serve local residents in Mayfield, Montenotte and the north side of Cork city.

Throughout Covid lockdowns, hundreds of people walked there every day, facilitated by the resident Dominicans.

Large swaths of Mayfield and Montenotte in Cork city’s north side have no public park.

Cork City’s development plan 2022–2028 aims to foster 10-minute liveable, walkable cities where all necessary amenities, including parks, are a 10-minute walk or within an 800m distance.

 The entrance to St Dominic's Retreat Centre Ennismore, Montenotte, Cork.  Picture: Jim Coughlan
The entrance to St Dominic's Retreat Centre Ennismore, Montenotte, Cork.  Picture: Jim Coughlan

Park-life

Green Party Councillor Oliver Moran supports local calls for the centre, if sold, to be bought by Cork City Council for a park.

"The area around the retreat centre is earmarked in the development plan for a neighbourhood scale park,” Mr Moran said.

“This is something for which there is a great demand in the North East ward. It would also potentially serve as the location for a playground.

“There's enormous demand for a playground too in the area, which has none, but difficulty in finding a suitable location that everyone can agree on.

"The area is already used as an open space by nearby residents, even when it is in private ownership. Given its designation in the development plan, I think it would be a priority now for the city to act on that if it's for sale.

"The plan includes a small number of houses too that would act as passive supervision for the park, which I would support as well, especially in the context of a housing crisis. However, the design would need to work well to activate the park as a public place while also preserving the attractiveness it has now."

Cllr John Maher and Cllr Mick Nugent also supported the proposal.

A spokesperson from Cork City Council’s Property Section confirmed that they have not been approached in relation to the purchase of the land.

Ancient tress

Some of Cork city’s oldest trees grow on the grounds, with some specimens having been dated at 400 years old.

Trees in St Dominic's Retreat Centre Ennismore, Montenotte, Cork. There are calls to turn the facility into a much-needed city park on the northside. Picture: Jim Coughlan
Trees in St Dominic's Retreat Centre Ennismore, Montenotte, Cork. There are calls to turn the facility into a much-needed city park on the northside. Picture: Jim Coughlan

Along with indigenous varieties like oak, exotic specimens like Ginkgo biloba flourish on site, having been brought there by the Leycester family who lived there from 1837 until 1950.

Involved in shipping, they brought unusual plants back home to Cork from their travels.

Dominicans who live at the centre have seen red squirrels there and the grounds help form part of a wildlife corridor in the city’s northside.

Ennismore is on a bus route and currently has two car parks.

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