THE HEART of the Liffey Valley is to be dramatically transformed over the next decade through plans to build a 20km park spanning the River Liffey that would link the heart of Dublin with Celbridge, Co Kildare.
The ambitious plan to develop the banks of the Liffey into Ireland's largest linear park is awaiting approval and funding from the Environment Department.
However, work has already begun on some sections of the project, a spokesman for the Office of Public Works confirmed.
The project, involving four local authorities, would see the banks of the Liffey transformed into a greenbelt with cycle and pedestrian paths along the river that would incorporate 14 "flagship" projects along the park route.
The concept was borrowed from the Lagan Valley Regional Park in Northern Ireland which features a 17.6km parkway that snakes along the banks of the River Lagan from the heart of Belfast to the Union Locks in Lisburn.
Eugene Keane, project co-ordinator at the OPW whose achievements include designing the interpretive centres at Newgrange and the site of the Battle of the Boyne, said the aim of the project is to create an urban greenspace rivalling that of our European neighbours.
"The essence of the park is already in existence, but linking it all together will create a far greater appreciation of what is effectively a green lung reaching into Dublin. By linking all these projects together, we can create an entity that defies administrative boundaries and would be the envy of other European cities," he said.
The centrepiece of the project will be the €6m restoration of the Anna Liffey mill, a former flour mill in the heart of the Strawberry Beds near Lucan. The first project would see Dublin City Council extend the Liffey boardwalk to Heuston Station, followed by plans to build a 40-metre pedestrian bridge at Chapelizod that would link up with a new riverside park near Islandbridge.
The site would also feature a new entrance to the National War Memorial Gardens at Islandbridge, as well as a link to the gardens via a new bridge from the Phoenix Park.
A new riverside park will also be created in Celbridge, while the riverbank in the heart of Leixlip will get improved pedestrian access. The nearby Lucan Demesne will be linked up with St Catherine's Park by another pedestrian bridge. Other projects include the restoration of the historic Guinness bridge near Palmerstown. While the project will be subject to approval from the Department of the Environment, other hurdles include wrestling some of the land in question from owners and developers who own sizeable chunks of the land bank near the Anna Liffey mill site.