Donadea Forest Park - management of a recreational resource
Donadea Forest Park is situated in northwest Kildare, less than 30 miles from Dublin, and is approximately 640 acres in size. It has been a forest park since 1981, where the local community, and those from further afield in Kildare and Dublin have enjoyed, and continue to enjoy, the diversity of habitats, the walled stream, the lake, the castle, and the church, to mention a few. The Park is a designated National Heritage Area. In 1999, a decision was made to develop and implement an Environmental Management Plan at the park. This was drawn up by Coillte's local Forest Manager, in consultation with Coillte's Regional Environmental Officer. It was recognised that it was crucial to develop a plan that allowed normal operations to take place, but at the same time, did not compromise the recreational needs of the local communities and other users of the park. It was agreed that the development of the management plan had to take place in partnership with the local community.
The local community became involved through Tir na Mona, who are a democratically elected group of local community representatives. Specifically, it was their working group, Friends of Donadea Forest Park that became involved in the development of the future plan for the park. It was agreed to have three formal meetings each year to discuss plans and issues, in addition to having as many informal meetings as required.
The earlier stages of the project were mostly taken up with three main tasks: upgrading the existing facilities at the park; consulting with the local community on their recreational needs; and planning for development of new facilities to be completed by the year 2000. Some of the upgrading included: repair and upgrading of all furniture and roads in the park; erection of new signage; and renovation of the shop facilities. Consultation with the public took place in the form of a questionnaire that contained eight questions, in which a total of 200 visitors were surveyed between June and July, 1999. Much effort was also made during 1999 into sourcing funding to help achieve the objectives set out in the Management Plan and to help realise the dreams of the local residents. Thankfully, help arrived from KELT, who recognised the potential that the park offered as an amenity, and they backed up Coillte and the local community's vision with support from LEADER II and Kildare County Council.
With the security of funding, work began in earnest during 2000 on the development of three Walks - The Aylmer Walk, The Nature Trail, and the Lake Walk. The Aylmer Walk is very aptly titled in that it is the longest of the three walks at 5km, and incorporates Lime Tree Avenue. The Nature Trail, as the name suggests, focuses on the flora and fauna and history of Donadea Park. The Lake Walk is a special walk that has been designed so that it is fully accessible for people with special needs.
The official launch of the new walks took place on September 3rd 2000, to coincide with the Community Celebration of Donadea Forest Park 2000. Charlie McCreevy, local TD and Minister for Finance, was the guest of honour at the celebrations, where he officially launched the three walks. Also present at the launch were Martin Lowery (Coillte Chief Executive), Pat Hanrahan (Coillte Midlands Region Manager), and descendants of the Aylmer Family. Following the launch, a Millennium Pageant "The Aylmers through the Ages" was conducted at the Castle (Donadea Castle was the home of the Aylmer family from 1550 to 1935). Other events that day included a music recital by the Kildare County Orchestra, poetry readings, and performances by local artists.
This day was jointly organised by Coillte, Tír na Mona, Friends of Donadea Forest Park, KELT and Kildare County Council. Greater than 2000 people came to witness the celebrations, which was the perfect climax to almost two years of hard work and effort by the different organisations. Mr McCreevy stated that the project was "an excellent example of partnership between a State owned Company, local Agencies, and the Community." The huge turnout demonstrated the community's satisfaction in the new recreational facilities and that all the effort, cooperation, and dedication to the cause was well worth it!
9/11 Memorial unveiled at Donadea
On September 11th 2001, along with 343 members of the New York emergency services, a young Irish American, Sean Tallon, lost his life in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. Sean was a fire fighter with the New York Fire Department. Sean's father was born in Donadea, Co. Kildare, and the Tallon family had always kept close connections with their relatives and friends who still live in the community. In the year prior to his death, Sean had travelled to Donadea where he visited the park.
Following the death of Sean Tallon and the tragic events of September 11th, George Hipwell, Forest Manager was approached by locals to consider what could be done at Donadea Forest Park to convey the sympathy of the community and to commemorate Sean Tallon. George organised a ceremonial planting of an oak tree to which representatives of the New York Police Department and the New York Fire Department were invited. This event was attended by approximately 5,000 members of the public which highlighted the need for a more formal and permanent memorial to those who lost their lives in New York, Washington DC and Pennsylvania.
As a result, the Donadea 9/11 committee was formed involving representatives of Coillte, Kildare County Council, KELT, Tir na Mona and Friends of the Forest. This group worked together to develop a permanent memorial at Donadea Forest Park which was unveiled on 21st September 2003, in commemoration of all who died in the attacks in the U.S. and especially dedicated to the memory of Sean Tallon.
The ceremony was led by the Mayor of County Kildare, Councillor Michael Fitzpatrick and was attended by a huge gathering of people including many from the New York emergency and rescue services, as well as other dignitaries, all of whom paid tribute to those who lost their lives. The ceremony was followed by a parade to the memorial site which was led by the pipe band of the Dublin Fire Brigade. A pair of doves were released to represent the wish for peace.
The memorial itself is a scaled replica of the Twin Towers, carved in blocks of limestone. It was designed by Brian Swan, Senior Architect with Kildare County Council and crafted under the supervision of Bernard Groome, a local stonemason and sculptor. The memorial is erected on a specially prepared plinth, with carved crests inlaid in stone flags. The twin blocks carry the names engraved of all the men and women of the New York Fire Department, Police Officers and Port Authority officials who died in the Twin Towers.
The memorial is set in a specially prepared plot of native oak trees in the serene and tranquil setting of the park.
Since the erection of the 9/11 memorial many tours of American visitors have visited Donadea Forest Park. The initiative has generated enormous good will among local people and has also helped to further develop strong partnerships with local tourism and other organisations.
In acknowledgement of the work that has been done locally by the 9/11 committee, the New York Fire Department invited the group to New York for St. Patrick's Weekend during which they attended mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York and took part in the St. Patrick's Day Parade in New York. The parade made its way down 5th Avenue which took over an hour during which time the Donadea 9/11 committee was warmly applauded. George Hipwell describes his participation in the parade as 'one of the most moving moments in his life', where he was representing his country, his county and his company.
Following the parade the committee was introduced to representatives of the Fire Department, the Police Department, and family members and taken on a tour of the site of Ground Zero.