Writes Ciaran Dineen
In 2021 Ringaskiddy has become a tourist destination and this alone is a sign of how far the village has come over the course of the last two decades. That is according to Councillor Marcia D’Alton (Ind), who holds cautious reservations over the busy period that lies ahead for the harbour settlement, but is quietly optimistic and hopeful that the future for Ringaskiddy will be very bright.
Of course, while we all know of the changes coming down the line, with the relocation of the Port of Cork, Public Realm Enhancement Plans and the construction of the M28 Motorway, such is the scale and impact of these developments, that it means it is hard to picture exactly what Ringaskiddy will look like in just a few years’ time.
The period ahead will need to be “managed ever so carefully” according to Cllr D’Alton, who has played an active role for 20 years now in the village, both in her role as a County Councillor and as an activist in the anti-incinerator movement which commenced in 2001. It is only in the last couple of years according to Marcia, that Cork County Council are taking a “new look” at Ringaskiddy, and are now seeing it as a proper settlement.
It’s fair to say that the village now has an awful lot going for it. The opening of the park in Haulbowline in January of this year has been an enormous success with “hugely positive” impacts for the local area according to Cllr D’Alton. It has quickly turned into a ‘must-see’ amenity with its panoramic views and walking features, attracting people from all across Cork.
More widely than that however, Marcia explains that she has really noticed a shift over the course of the last 12 months, in which time Ringaskiddy has almost appeared to re-define its place in the context of South-Cork, as it has become a “destination point” for people to travel to. Haulbowline Island Recreational Park has of course been a fantastic pull for the area, but it’s also surrounding beaches like Luck, which Marcia jokingly suggests she used to treat like her own private amenity, that have also seen big increases in footfall and activity.
This has been a hallmark of the change that has occurred over the past 20 years, as part of an overall transformation that has been pretty remarkable according to the Passage-West resident. “I look now at the place that was supposed to house the incinerator in 2001 and if you think back to that time, Irish Steel had just closed and sold the site to Indaver. Nobody went to Luck Beach, nobody knew where Gobby Beach was, the carpark was small and dirty. All the traffic from the Port was going through Ringaskiddy, it was just a different world."
"Now you’ve got somewhere that people long to go to over a weekend and on a sunny summer’s day. The park has transformed Haulbowline Island, there’s a beautiful shoreline walk around Gobby that some people walk every day. With the 223 bus the beaches are so accessible to people all over the City and nearby towns. Swimming groups have started, kayaking is now going on, there is never a lack of activity around the place, it has simply been transformed.”
With a lot of resources and project management invested in the Park and huge improvements made to creating better accessibility to Gobby Beach, Cork County Council are certainly looking at Ringaskiddy with a different perspective. This view is re-enforced with the knowledge that they are soon to commence a €1m Public Realm project, which will see the core centre of the village become far more people-focused. An emphasis will be placed on the centre of the village, so as to provide a more defined focal point for the area. The extent of works along the street is approximately 380 metres in length and will be funded from the development contribution supplied by the Port of Cork.
In the village centre, the existing carriageway will be reduced and realigned, resulting in the overall width of the road decreasing from 9 metres to 6 metres, providing a single lane carriageway. The existing right-turn lane, ghost islands and centre island markings will all be removed. With the extra space, the existing footpath on the north side of the road (adjacent to the Playground) will increase to 4 metres and be turned into a Shared Use Path, for both pedestrians and cyclists.
Additional changes to the public realm will see the incorporation of public seating and paths, the provision of bicycle parking, green urbanisation with the addition of trees and a new bus stop and shelter. Traffic calming measures will help to reduce the speed and flow of congestion through the village, and the introduction of pedestrian crossings will help to make the shift from prioritising cars, to prioritising people.
This will hopefully give the village a more defined heart, with Cllr D’Alton excited to see the finished article. “I think it’s really going to make a huge difference to Ringaskiddy. Just outside the Ferry Boat Inn is going to be turned into a focus area where events can be held and it’s a fantastic opportunity for Ringaskiddy to get back a sense of itself”.
The work of the local Tidy Towns, group which is only in its infancy, has added a real injection of life into the village and that is a reflection of the positive environment that now radiates from the harbour area. Ringaskiddy is truly a place that appears to be reborn, and out of the darkness of the last 18 months has appeared a unique community with so much to offer. There is sure to be challenges with all of the change on the horizon, but as things stand, the future looks very bright for Ringaskiddy.