Newry's Rain Park
Recent news has allowed us see the potential impact flooding events can have upon the infrastructure of our city and our lives within the city. Similarly we understand the importance and huge budgets that local and national governments put towards creating huge projects designed to prevent the worst impacts these increasingly frequent weather events can have upon our daily lives.
Anyone who has looked at these projects can attest to the scale of these works and their impact upon how we view and enjoy our public spaces - often these pieces of infrastructure satisfy their function, however they often lack the care required for their place within the city. They don’t add any spatial quality to the city, something which improves the quality of the space for the citizens.
In Newry, given the two major water courses we have running through the centre of our city it stands to reason that we will have to deal with the issue of heavy flood control and relief works through the centre of our town. Why don’t we use the investment as an opportunity to allow a new green space for our city to piggy back on the required investment. If anything the recent public support for the creation of the park at the Albert Basin has highlighted, is the need for open, green space easily accessible for all in the town.
Following examples from the Netherlands and other places further along the slope of being forced to deal with the consequences of Climate Change, I propose we begin to look at the creation of a softer approach to how we deal with the flood events. The more recent “Rain Park” projects in the Netherlands have begun to look at how water works, through planning moves soft basins, areas of good drainage all within well planned landscapes allow the water from our rising water courses to be guided to these areas, which are designed to flood - away from our shops, homes etc. The benefit of this is that we don’t need to create heavy concrete drains, gullies and further disconnections from our water courses, our flood infrastructure when not dealing with the worst of the floods will become a linear river park, a green lung for our city. The benefits of this is supported by a recent Wildfowl & Wetlands report highlighting the benefits of ready access to urban wetlands and water courses, how they improve well being, foster community well being and pride of place.
It’s not hard to envision such a piece of city, running along the lands between the Canal and Clanrye. A linear stripe of green which in normal times becomes an extended park containing a huge amount of easily maintained greenspace, with space for cycle and walking routes allowing the people of the city space to safely travel, sustainably between the Greenway, Albert Basin park and the Tow Path. Of course in this version of events, the theatre project has been revised so it works for the benefit of the City and the Town Hall, with the removal of the needless glass link.
A linear park of this nature, does not need to be expensive. It does not require anything more than well thought out planting (with native species adapted to occasional submersion), cycle and foot paths forming a connection across the town and areas designed to hold flood water allowing it to slowly work its way back to the water course naturally. Imagine the increased biodiversity and air quality within our city, imagine the improvement to your walk across the city and maybe more importantly imagine the tourism impact if we have the first city “rain park” in Ireland. A city with an intrinsic connection to its history and geography.