Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Maria Young, Coordinator of Green Spaces for Health, as the minister visited the garden space at Parkowen on Monday. Photo: Eoin Murphy/artfotoglobal

Oasis created in South Parish

From a former cemetery to a place where anti-social behaviour was frequent, one green space in Cork city now has a different story to tell.

It’s all thanks to a group of people, from kids to the elderly, who took the time to transform a neglected garden into a public space full of trees and flowers for the neighbourhood to enjoy.

The green area in Parkowen, just off Quaker Road, was shown to the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly on Monday as the project was carried out under the auspices of Green Spaces for Health.

The minister was also on hand to help volunteers plant a tree at the revamped garden.

Volunteers came from as far away as Brazil to help with the Green Spaces for Health project, which is part of Cork Healthy Cities, and the group hope this green oasis can be replicated across Cork city.

Maria Young, Coordinator of Green Spaces for Health, told the Cork Independent how the project came to be: “The community gardaí brought us here in 2019 because they said there was a lot of anti-social behaviour going on and the place was kind of wrecked.

“Local people weren’t using it because they felt it was too dangerous to come down here. So the gardaí asked us is there anything we can do as they thought it was a shame that people were too afraid to come down here. A few volunteers came together and we just kept coming week after week and three years later, the place has been transformed.”

Maria said the South Parish space is for everyone to visit but was largely worked on for the neighbourhood.

“There isn’t a lot of green spaces in the area. There are some ecclesiastical sites with green spaces in them, but they were closed during Covid-19 restrictions so this one of the only green spaces locally to visit for a lot of people,” said Maria.

A lot of work was carried out including planting a hedgerow for the birds which was one of the first things the group did. The group now has about 27 people from age ten to 70s who met every Tuesday to work on the garden.

She added: “We did a tree audit of the parish and we measured and mapped over 1,200 trees. We discovered that only 18 per cent of them were native so that influenced us to plant native trees and we’ve also started a tree nursery.”

She said they planted trees and wild flower meadows not just in the garden but around the parish too. “So we are slowly building up layers of biodiversity,” she explained

She said that the public space is a pesticide free zone and some of the flowers are being used to dye fabrics while the space itself has been used for community events and gatherings when restrictions allowed.