As Arthur’s Quay Park is currently either first or last place many tourists to Limerick see when the M7 Express pulls in, it is worth considering what impact the park makes on visitors to Limerick city. The below are a series of photographs of Arthur’s Quay park in its current condition.
Arthur’s Quay Park is built on a parcel of land reclaimed from the river. It seems extraordinary to go to the effort of reclaiming land from the river, and then construct a public park on that land, for the park to be left in it’s current condition. Arthur’s Quay Park has never really been adopted by the city of Limerick. Indeed, until recently it had a reputation for being unsafe, something that was resolved by removing the thick foilage and railings which surrounded the park. The provision of flowerbeds in their place has added a small bit of colour to an otherwise park who’s greatest feature seems to be it’s featurelessness.
Is this the image that best serves tourists when they come to or leave our city?
In addition to considering the impact of the park on tourists, it’s even more important to consider how the park interacts with life in the city. It isn’t hard to imagine the Park was meant to be a public amphitheatre, with considerable space for the provision of temporary seating in a hemispheric pattern around the slightly elevated point in the centre of the park, with the larger tiers at the edge of the park to provide further seating in addition for popular public shows. Indeed, in the early years of the park, it was a venue of sorts to the short lived Paddy Expo, a musical festival held throughout the city. However, apart from the weekend of Riverfest and the temporary Ice Rink in December, the Park is under-utilised for civic events during the year.
Riverfest has had the effect of showing casing what the park can be when it is utilised correctly. The decision to move the Riverfest village into the park has been a success. Ideally, the mooted plan to establish a speaker’s corner in the park will also make the park a greater part of the fabric of Limerick life. However, the city council need to make sure the park is a more pleasant place to spend time in.
It’s not hard to imagine how the park would be more pleasant with the provision of flower beds, grass instead of the brick centre and the provision of a playground. Credit must be given to Chez le Fab for opening an excellent café in the old tourist office. They are utilising the space not just as a café but also as a cultural amenity, hosting diverse nights and bring life back into the city centre. The space outside the cafe and by the old rostrum of the Wild Geese statue could be an ideal place for coffee and a concert on sunny days, but for some reason the fence was maintained between the space in front of Chez le Fab and the park itself. This division doesn’t appear to serve any purpose apart from isolating the café from the park.
Ideally, the success of the Riverfest village will inspire and lead to the provision of a Christmas market in November and December. The Christmas markets of France, Germany or Belgium could easily be imported to Limerick, with the one in Eyre Square in Galway proving a considerable success. The ice rink could be moved back to the Potato market.
However in order for the park to become a more pleasant place for the city to enjoy, the council should considering refurbishing the entire park. Arthur’s Quay Park is so evidently unappealing that it isn’t too surprising that it is under-utilised. Ideally the entire park would be remodelled, with the brick centre replaced with grass lawns and flower beds, but even the provision of flower beds on the existing green areas would add some colour to the park.
Hopefully the provision of colourful flower beds on the base of the old railings will be continued to actually providing flower beds in the park itself.
Arthur’s Quay park could be the civic space the city badly requires. It should be the centre piece of civic events all year round, not just for the Riverfest weekend. The city deserves better than the park as it currently is. Even if it is not possible to conduct a refurbishment of the park, it should be possible to make it more pleasant for Limerick people and tourists alike.