MAYOR of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Councillor Michaela Boyle, has performed the official opening of the stunning St Columb’s Park Shared Space Walled Garden project.
The extensive restoration project to the rear of St Columb’s Park House was undertaken by Willie Doherty Construction and will be used as a shared space by the whole community.
The PEACE IV Programme is supported by the European Union and managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), match-funding has been provided by the Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.
The project is identified as a priority in Derry City and Strabane District Council’s Parks Development Programme and the Strategic Growth Plan that commits to protect and promote our natural and built heritage assets and develop local parks and green spaces.
The project was delivered in close collaboration between Council, St Columb’s Park House and the Acorn Fund.
The project has received over £370,000 in external funding through the EU’s Peace IV Programme for the completion of Phase 1 of the garden and a supporting programme of peace building activity through St Columb’s Park Peace and Reconciliation Centre.
The finished project included clearing the site, laying out the historic path network and the rebuilding and restoring of the Walled Garden enclosure.
Mayor Boyle said the project would be a welcome addition to the park’s expanding infrastructure: “I am proud to officially open this beautiful new outdoor space which is a key element of the wider St Columb’s Park Regeneration Plan.
“The Walled Garden enhances the Park’s historic, cultural and landscape amenity and will crucially create a shared space that will benefit the entire community.
“Congratulations to all the project stakeholders from Council, St Columb’s Park House and the Acorn Fund for their collaborative work in bringing this project to fruition.”
Welcoming the official opening, Gina McIntyre, CEO of the SEUPB, added: “Peace IV funded shared space projects, like the one we are celebrating here today, are being supported across Northern Ireland and the Border Region of Ireland.
“The EU’s PEACE IV Programme has approved funding for a number of large-scale standalone projects across the region as well as a larger number of smaller-scale projects through local authorities.
“Upon completion, each one will provide a space for the local community people to mix with a shared purpose. Working together offers an opportunity to challenge some of the misconceptions and prejudices that have arisen consciously and also unconsciously.
“Every small step helps us move forward as a tolerant, peaceful and forward-thinking society which is willing to embrace diversity”.
Alison Wallace, Chair of the PEACE IV Board, added: “The Walled Garden is one of our key Shared Space projects under our PEACE IV local action plan.
“The PEACE IV Board are thrilled to see it officially opened and would encourage people to visit or sign up for the ongoing cross-community programme now being rolled out in the park.
“Since the opening of the Peace Bridge, and with the ongoing regeneration of the Ebrington site, St.Columb’s Park has been increasingly enjoyed by all our communities.
“Extending public places where people socialise together, like this Walled Garden, is very much part of peace. The project is not only restoring heritage – it’s restoring hope.”
Sharon Doherty, Operations Manager at St Columb’s Park House, said the completed project is a key asset in the work to build peace and reconciliation in the setting of our natural environment.
“Within Northern Ireland, peace building is often perceived as bringing people from different backgrounds together to build trust and engage in dialogue,” she said.
“The recent climate emergency, however, highlights the need to move towards a more global ‘one-world’ approach to peacebuilding that values environmental as well as human rights? The restoration of the Walled Garden presents us with opportunities to be lead the way in connecting peace building with our natural environment.”
Acorn Fund Development Officer Shauna Kelpie added: “The completed Walled Garden project is a significant addition to the continued restoration of St Columb’s Park House and the wider St Columb’s Park grounds.
“The Acorn Fund are delighted to be a partner in the Park’s development given that health, wellbeing and sustainability are all important issues in our society.
“The garden creates a shared space that will help increase knowledge and awareness of the important role food production plays in the health and wellbeing of our communities.
The wider plans for the Regeneration of St Columb’s Park and in particular the Phase 2 of the Walled Garden were also launched at the event.
These plans will be kept on display at St Columb’s Park House should any member of the public wish to see the planned £6m investment currently being pursued.