KILKENNY’S re-developed Lacken Walk was officially opened to the public on Monday this week, providing a scenic riverside walking route from the heart of the city to the ring road.
The upgraded walkway, which cost €110,000, is a 1.6km stretch along the Nore riverbank from Maudlin Street as far as the new Ossory Bridge, where it links up with the Nore Valley Walk. It features a ramped wooden boardwalk with fencing and handrails, as well as picnic tables and seating along the route.
The unveiling of the walk marks the completion of the third phase of the River Nore Linear Park development, which aims to improve riverside amenities and make Kilkenny more accessible by foot.
Monday’s opening ceremony was attended by Minister for the Environment Phil Hogan, Mayor David Fitzgerald, as well as members of the county and borough councils and local organisations. Cathaoirleach of Kilkenny County Council Paul Cuddihy, who first put forward the Linear Park idea seven years ago, addressed the gathering.
“I’m extremely happy to be here, and I’m happy that we now have this facility for the people of Kilkenny,” he said
“We now have seven of 10 kilometres of the Linear Park done. We hope ultimately to reach the sea, but we might need a boundary extension; we will discuss it with Wexford County Council,” he joked.
Mayor David Fitzgerald said he was delighted to see the upgraded route open, and that he had been no stranger to Lacken Walk in times past.
“I also spent a bit of time on this walk long before there was an extension or a board walk here,” he said.
“It was one of the ‘courting spots’ in the city. It has always been a beautiful spot in the city; in my view it is the nicer side to walk on because it is the sunny side of the river bank.”
While concrete plans for the Linear Park development were tabled in the council chamber just seven years ago, the roots of the project go back much further.
Cllr Cuddihy attributes his initial inspiration for the scheme to an article penned by famed Kilkenny essayist Hubert Butler in the 1950s, which called for a such a development along the Nore banks.
It was fitting then, that in attendance at the launch of the new walkway were Julia Crampton - daughter of the late Mr Butler - and her daughter Susannah.
It was also apt that a Kilkenny man, Tom Beckett from Freshford, was the contractor chosen to make the idea a reality. He and five others have worked on the site full-time since September 2011, and he says that every effort was made to preserve the scenic beauty of the riverside.
Phase One of the Linear Park development began in 2006, comprising a 2.5km stretch connecting the weir on Bleach’s Road to the rear of Riverview Drive, north of Green’s Bridge. The second phase began in 2007, with works carried out along Canal Walk to Dukesmeadows.
An additional bridge crossing at some point along the river is now being mooted, as part of a possible future addition to the park.
The council is also hoping that further development for the Linear Park might be undertaken at the site of the St Francis Abbey Brewery, following the closure of the Diageo facility in 2014. The future of that site is still not currently clear.
However, Minister Phil Hogan said that everything was still on the table.
“I met Diageo recently to discuss their plans for the site in the context of leaving Kilkenny formally at the end of 2013,” he said.
“It is a site of enormous historical, but also economic development potential in the centre of Kilkenny. It will mean that the Local Authorities will have to look at any project that comes along for the site with due care and attention.
He welcomed the launch of the re-developed pathway.
“It’s part of the project that were identified when the Flood Relief Scheme was in gestation in 1996, and I’m glad that eventually we are able to see this project come to fruition, and allow the people of Kilkenny City and County enjoy another fully-fledged and well-developed walk as close as possible to the city.”
Pedestrians can now walk along Lacken walk as far as the ring road, where they can then travel to the Bennettsbridge roundabout, down by the Black Quarry and onto the Canal walk.
The re-developed route is suitable for prams, however the Maudlin Street entrance is accessible by steps only. Lacken Walk is also the only section of Linear Park that is not lit at night.