By Suzanne Pender
SECTIONS of Oak Park Forest Park have been described as “an accident waiting to happen”, with impassable and dilapidated walkways destroying the much-loved amenity. In recent months, lockdown has turned the facility into a hugely popular destination, with hundreds of Carlovians visiting the forest walk weekly.
Carlow County Council recently carried out extensive rehabilitation works on the first looped walk within the forest park at a cost of €30,000. However, Oak Park’s additional looped walks remain in a very poor state of repair, with further damage caused by this week’s bad weather.
“You would need a pair of wellies here today to get through it … it’s an accident waiting to happen,” one walker told The Nationalist last Friday. “At least I was able to get through it, but there was one lady I met with a buggy and it was impossible,” he added.
“To be fair, the council has done a wonderful job of the first looped walk, but why stop there? There is only a very small section of the second looped walk done and then the work just stops. Why didn’t they just finish the job?” he asked.
Carlow County Council’s director of services Michael Brennan fully accepted that Oak Park Forest Park was a “really important asset for the wellbeing and health of the local community”.
“We are very conscious of how important every outdoor space is, especially now during Covid,” he said.
Mr Brennan stated that recent rehabilitation works were as a result of an allocation of €30,000 in funding from the Outdoor Recreational Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) by the Department of Rural and Community Development.
“The surface has deteriorated and further resurfacing is needed, but we need the funding to do it. We are looking at all options in terms of securing additional funding,” he stated.
“Somewhere in the region of €500,000 is needed to bring Oak Park Forest Park to a proper standard, to repair all the walkways and surfaces, upgrade the children’s play area, improve signage and to have greater biodiversity in terms of a natural trail, bird boxes and so forth. We are looking at all of the funding opportunities available.”
Mr Brennan also confirmed that the council is continuing to seek all funding opportunities to enhance Duckett’s Grove, including a long-awaited playground.