Friends of Merlin Woods and supporters of Save the Meadows of Merlin Park Galway were out in force on last week – with around 50 to 60 people turning out over two hours to protest against the proposed construction of a hospice in the meadow with further action planned in coming weeks.
In July, councillors voted in favour of including on the Draft City Development Plan a provision for the rezoning of seven acres of Recreational and Amenity lands on the grounds of Merlin Park Hospital to allow for the construction of a 26-bed hospice unit with the possibility of expanding to 50 in the future.
Caroline Stanley of Friends of Merlin Woods said that the group are completely unopposed to the construction of a hospice – however, they believe that there are many more suitable alternatives to the proposed site.
“There are plenty of alternatives, including on the hospital campus,” said Caroline. “It’s also near Ardaun which is an area that is supposed to be developed.”
From 11am on Saturday morning, the campaigners surrounded the entrance of Merlin Park Hospital holding banners with slogans of “Killing the woods is killing us” and “Yes for a hospice within Merlin Hospital Campus”.
According to the group, the Merlin Woods was a key consideration in the decision to designate Galway the European Green Leaf Environmental Award in recognition of a strong environmental record and engagement of citizens in environmental awareness.
Ms Stanley believes that the proposed rezoning is going against all that the Green Leaf designation stood for.
Friends of Merlin Woods say that the area needs to be maintained to promote the positive use of recreational areas by those who enjoy various outdoor interests such as schools, walkers, cyclists, artists and anyone who wishes to create balance and awareness between people and their environment.
They also asserted that the reduction in any more RA zoned land would have a detrimental effect on physical and mental health and would likely increase stress and illness for people living in Galway.
“Merlin Park Woods with its meadowlands are the oldest, largest and most bio-diverse ancient limestone woodland in Galway city, equitable to the Burren,” said the group in a statement on the plans, adding that to build on the site “would be a major loss to the community, the City of Galway and at a national and international level.”
Previously, the group fought and won a battle to have a planned road through the woods and its meadows removed from the City Development Plan and they are intent on having similar success with this campaign.
The group will again take to the streets on Saturday with campaigners due to be out on Shop Street for the day with petitions in an effort to inform people of the plans for the woods – and why they oppose them.
“The idea is to get signatures and to raise awareness in the city – we want to give people the opportunity to ask questions,” said Caroline Stanley.