The latest development of new recreational amenities in Glebe Park, Balrothery with the opening of a Playground and Multi User Games Area (MUGA) signals the dawn of a new era. Balrothery is a historic medieval village nestled in the hills between Balbriggan and Skerries. The village expanded rapidly during the building boom of the Celtic Tiger years, with the population trebling in size and like many places suffered in the downturn, and subsequently experienced a lost decade. As result of the crash, the expanded young community faced challenges of having a population that has grown to the size of a Town however it still had the legacy infrastructure of a village, in particular the deficits with connectivity to recreational amenities.
The resurgence in the towns fortunes emerged from the work of the Community Association and Tidy Towns collaborating with Fingal County Council to realise the potential of Balrothery’s strengths, which is the areas rich Heritage, the abundance of thriving sporting clubs and greenbelt that surrounds it. Being a historic village surrounded by fantastic amenities such as cricket club, fishing club, tennis club, football club, GAA club and golf club presented the opportunity to connect all this together with the residential area to create a recreational Hub in Balrothery and with further ambition to connect the area to the Fingal Costal Way to link the towns of Balbriggan, Skerries & Balrothery with a walking and cycleway via Ardgillan Regional Park.
As the green shoots of the economic recovery emerged, then so did the opportunity to start delivering on the plan with a new Government initiative of the Town & Village Renewal Scheme set up by the Dept Rural and Community Development which opened a new funding opportunity for towns and villages to collaborate on projects with the local authority, this coupled with the recognition of the management of Fingal County Council that investment is needed in communities in Fingal as the region is the youngest and fastest growing county in the country, resulted in the successful collaboration between the community, local authority and central government.
The plan was to start with enhancing the areas heritage identity and improving accessibility around the park, and Town & Village Renewal scheme funding in 2016 rejuvenated the town centre streetscape & public realm, and improved facilities & access around the park with new adult exercise equipment and new path network. The following year the 2017 Town & Village scheme funding focused on first phase of the Glebe Park Masterplan with funding for a next generation design concept for a Playground and Multi User Games Area. Further funding was received to assist with the implementation of the Glebe Park Plan with Sports Capital Grant from the Dept of Transport, Tourism & Sport to upgrade the tennis club to state of the art playing surfaces. The opening of the Playground & MUGA is a milestone in the development of Glebe Park with the new tennis court and football pitch following soon after. Incidentally, the progress will continue with Town & Village Renewal funding awarded for a 3rd successive year, with the 2018 funding building on previous years investment into public realm and infrastructure with enhanced accessibility and safety for pedestrians with new path networks and pedestrian crossing points within the village, new parking facilities and public art pieces.
Welcoming the news; Kevin Tolan, Chairperson of Balrothery Community Association ‘’We wish to thank Fingal County Council, our Local Councillors and Central Government Departments for working closely with the community to deliver this project which will reinvigorate the area. The objective of the Glebe Park Plan is to deliver much needed recreational facilities for the youngest members of our community. The design of the playground was carefully thought out with two key themes represented which are, Nature and Heritage. These themes influenced the overall design and the selection of natural materials. The Nature theme is represented by natural play opportunities within the playground, and the use of natural materials like grass, sand, water, stone and wood. The Heritage of Balrothery is represented by the Medieval Knight Theme, the Irish name for Balrothery is Baile na Ridire which translates into Town of The Knight, and the playground has a carving of a Medieval Knight as its centre piece which is a bespoke and unique to Balrothery. I wish to thank Fingal County Council for their progressive approach in embracing the concept, the Heritage theme helps connects the newest and youngest within the community to the area they live in and the natural play opportunities encourages an interest and appreciation of nature and is move away from the playgrounds of the past which were dominated by plastic and tarmac. As a father of three young children, I have visited many playgrounds over recent years and the common denominators taken from each playground has been to witness how a child gains in self-confidence, be that, climbing, balancing, and interacting with other children, and how much they enjoy just ‘playing’ uninhibited. To now be able to walk down as a family to a fabulous playground in Balrothery really is a dream come true. The MUGA is a great size, will be well used for football & basketball and it complements the playground and will provide an area for ball-sports all-year round. Its co-location with the playground means a parent can supervise children of different ages in the playground & MUGA simultaneously. Reflecting on the journey that Balrothery Community Association embarked on to deliver these new amenities, it was a hard fought win, that required tenacity, and volunteers inspired by a clear purpose, which reminds me of this quote ‘‘History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children’’ …Nelson Mandela.’’
Commenting on this; Councillor Tony Murphy of the Independent Alliance ’’I’m delighted to see this investment in communities in Fingal from both Central Government and Local Government. I wish to thank the management of Fingal County Council for working closely with the community to produce a vision for Glebe Park, and for the continued development of the Park with the commitment to deliver a new football pitch this year for Balrothery Football Club, and the sports capital grant will very soon see the development of state of the art tennis court surface for to Balrothery Balbriggan Tennis Club, all of this contributes to delivering a wider plan in the development of recreational hub in Glebe Park and is a recognition of the value the sports clubs play in building sustainable communities. The work that is being done at community level between Balrothery Community Association and Tidy Towns and the sports clubs has been tremendous, and I wish to commend them on what they have accomplished ’’
Commenting on this; Councillor Tom O’Leary of Fine Gael ‘’ The positive effects of the Town & Village renewal scheme are clearly evident in Balrothery and I’m excited to see the delivery of this next phase with the opening of a new Playground and MUGA which will make Glebe Park a family destination. Investment into recreational facilities like this is very important for county Fingal which has the youngest and fastest growing population, and I thank my colleague Minister Ring and his department on the excellent scheme to revitalise our towns and villages.’’
Balrothery has an ancient history which dates back to the Bronze Age and its name has been eponymous with north Dublin for more than 800 years, firstly as the Barony of Balrothery and latterly Balrothery District & Rural Council a precursor to Fingal County Council. The Knights of Fingal who met in Balrothery in times gone by would agree the future is bright in the Town of the Knight.