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Galway adventurer tackles world’s highest peaks for charity

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It takes a special mental fortitude and bravery to scale some of the world’s most desolate mountains, but these are attributes that Killererin native Peter O’Connell possesses in spades.

He has climbed the highest peaks for good causes – most recently for Jigsaw – and while mountaineering started as a hobby, it has now clearly turned into a huge passion in his life.

Most recently, on June 1, Peter set off to tackle the 20,310ft Denali Mountain located in Alaska, United States. With only a 23kg backpack of supplies on his back and another 50kg on his sled he would have to make do with only these items for the next three weeks.

With little to no comfort or luxury items, every item needed to be carefully selected because he would be hauling this weight up steep slopes and peaks.

Although, he did manage to take along both Galway and Killererin flags which he was happy to say he, “wasn’t going home without getting both to the top.”

On this expedition, his days consisted of 6am starts at minus 15 degree temperatures and he was usually in his sleeping bag at 9pm.There were many challenges for him and his crew which they needed to overcome.

“The toughest part is the temperature changes, from minus 20 to plus 20 in the space of an hour; it’s hard to keep the clothing and sun protection correct. One morning I didn’t have goggles on and the wind was blowing, my eye lashes started frosting and sticking together,” he said.

Peter O'Connell plants the Galway flag on the summit of Denali Mountain.

Peter O’Connell plants the Galway flag on the summit of Denali Mountain.

His climbing group contained seven “enthusiastic and positive” Americans and himself. The mountain, which has only a success rate of 18% from attempted climbs, is something which motivated the Galway business man ever further.  But the actual climb wasn’t the biggest obstacle for him.

“The tough part can be dealing with team members and trying to keep everyone happy. Sometimes I wish I had more patience, a psychology degree could be handy,” he joked.

His preparation was quite meticulous before he even began his ascension.

“I always keep fit throughout the year, but the training increased substantially since Christmas. The training involved regular trail running in Connemara, long days of hiking with a heavy backpack along with strength and conditioning classes with In2fitness in Salthill. I usually train every day. My diet is sensible; an avoiding alcohol is preferable but not always practical.”

While he agrees physical fitness is an absolute necessity he stated that mental toughness is just as important.

“You need to be able physically, but staying positive and staying motivated is what will get you where you want to go. I find it easy to be motivated when I’m surrounded by such beauty.

“The mountains are so spectacular that I find it hard to ever complain, I just appreciate how lucky I am to have the opportunity to be in such a special place,” he added.

While Peter is a keen climbing enthusiast, there is another more pressing motivation for these climbs. These bigger climbs are used as an opportunity to raise funds for selected charities.

In this particular case, the charity he has chosen is Jigsaw Galway, a free and confidential support service for young people aged between 15 and 25 living in the city and country.

Even more admirable is the fact all donations will be matched by both his companies OCC Construction, Sweet Spot Capital and EpicIreland.com

Mental health is something which is very close to Peter heart, with suicide having affected his family.

“Mental health for young people is a huge issue and I think small things can make a big difference. I sometimes get depressed myself and I can see how people without a good support network in place could suffer. For me, getting away to the mountains is a great escape from everyday life,” he said.

This isn’t the first major charity driven climb that Peter has undertaken, in 2013 he became the first Galway native to climb Mount Everest, the world’s highest mountain which raised an over €50,000 for the Pieta House charity.

He has plenty more plans on the horizon and his mountaineering goal is to eventually complete the seven summits which are the highest point on each of the seven continents. Another would be to take an Irish expedition to Antarctica.

“I would like to organise an Irish expedition in Antarctica. Maybe ski to the pole, I know one or two guys crazy enough to go, so watch this space. I’m pushing on now too, so I’ll need to find someone to tolerate my gallivanting,” he says with a smile.

Justin McDermott of Jigsaw Galway described Peter as “one of our most wonderful supporters.”

“We are so proud of Peter for what he has achieved in summiting Mount Denali. He has been an incredibly passionate supporter of our work for a number of years now and the fact that he uses this expedition to again raise awareness and vital funds for Jigsaw Galway is a small indicator of his commitment.  He is a very, very proud Killererin man and Galway man and a true hero in our eyes,” said Justin.

Jigsaw Galway is located on the Fairgreen Rd, Galway City. Their opening hours are 12pm-6pm Monday-Thursday for drop in hours. Friday’s office hours are 9.30am-1pm and 2pm-5pm. Saturdays are for first time visits, by arrangement from 10.30am-3pm. Their telephone number is: (091) 549252.

■ If you would like to donate to Peter’s campaign please CLICK HERE

CITY TRIBUNE

Community volunteers out in force for planathons on banks of Lough Atalia

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Planters…the group of community volunteers after their Lough Atalia Plantathon.

Student volunteers and community activists were out in force throughout the month of December to push back against the climate crisis – taking part in a series of ‘plantathons’ on the banks of Lough Atalia.

Planting bulbs and trees, the programme was led by Galway Community College which owns the lands involved – and aims to rewild another portion of the city, following in the footsteps of Terryland Forest Park.

While a much smaller area by size, those behind the initiative say it shows what’s possible when the community comes together.

Supported by the National Park City initiative, the creation of this woods and wildflower meadow on what were, until now pasture lands, also had the backing of several other voluntary organisation in the city as well as Scoil Chaitríona Senior, Dominican College Taylor’s Hill, Galway Education Centre and Galway Science and Technology Festival.

With the bulbs provided by the Newcastle-based multinational Aerogen, Convenor of the Galway National Park City Brendan Smith said the project epitomised how the initiative brings interested parties together to do good.

He said efforts such as those on Lough Atalia showed the determination of young people and locals to continue the great work of those who carried out the very first plantathon in Terryland almost 22 years ago.

Those efforts were required now more than ever as the impact of the climate emergency was being acutely felt.

“The frequency and severity of storms is becoming more characteristic of Ireland as a result of unstable destructive global warm weather caused by the burning of fossil fuels and the destruction of nature’s ‘carbon sinks’ such as forests and bogs.

“Storm Barra was the latest in a long list of storms to hit our shores over the last decade. But one key way to tackle the climate emergency is to plant trees – and lots of them. The Irish Government wants to have 22 million trees planted annually.

“This planting also happens to tackle the other great global crisis of our modern era, namely Biodiversity loss,” says Brendan.

“One million out of five million known species on the planet are threatened with extinction. Global populations of fauna have declined by nearly 70% since 1970.

“A forest is probably Earth’s most diverse biodiversity rich mix of ecosystems with an oak tree being able to be home to over 400 species of flora, fungi and fauna.

“Planting trees is a necessary action in helping to save the planet from humanity’s errors.”

 

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

City’s newest Salmon Weir crossing will be in place before end of year

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An artist's impression of the new Salmon Weir crossing

Galway city’s newest pedestrian bridge – costing €5m – is expected to be installed before December of this year.

The new cycle and pedestrian bridge over the Lower River Corrib will be located 25 metres downstream of the existing Salmon Weir Bridge.

An Bórd Pleanála granted planning permission for the bridge last August, and work is expected to begin on the project in the coming months.

Galway City Council, in conjunction with the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), North Western Regional Assembly and the National Transport Authority, has sought tenders from contractors to carry out the work.

The City Council is co-funding the project under ERDF with matched funding from the NTA.

The project must be completed by November 30, 2022, to comply with EU funding drawdown.

In the planning application, the City Council said 9,000 pedestrians and cyclists who currently use the Salmon Weir Bridge would use the new bridge once it’s opened.

The bridge will link Gaol Road to Newtownsmith. The scheme includes three span pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Lower River Corrib (main channel), Mill Race (Persse’s Distillery River) and Waterside Canal (Friar’s River).

The vision is that it would facilitate the BusConnects project, which will use the existing bridge, and also open up opportunities for a civic plaza at the Council owned car park at Galway Cathedral.

According to the tender documents, the “bridge substructure will be reinforced concrete construction, founded on sleeved reinforced concrete bored cast in place piles at the abutments and spread footings founded on and anchored to rock at the piers”.

Traffic management will need to be put in place during works and due to the environmentally sensitive site location “no temporary or permanent works will be permitted to be undertaken from the watercourses”.

Contractors have until January 21 to respond to the competition.

 

 

 

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

CPO could trigger major development of housing

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Aerial view of Bothar an Chóiste - Pic. Google Maps.

Just one submission has been received in relation to a Compulsory Purchase Order on a section of a hugely busy rat run between the Tuam and Headford Roads that could open up a large tranche of land for development if approved.

Galway City Council has applied to An Bord Pleanála to compulsorily purchase over 500 metres of land along Bother an Chóiste in Castlegar adjacent to land it already owns where a previous application to build 48 homes failed due to the width of the road around 2007.

That land is on the same side of the road as the Cluain Riocaird estate. There is another privately-owned land bank of over six hectares on the other side of Bothar an Chóiste also zoned residential that could accommodate up on 400 units which would also benefit from the road widening.

No application has been lodged for that development, but any approval would be dependent on an upgrade of the road which is widely used by motorists to avoid tailbacks at the two busiest traffic junctions in the city.

A spokesman for the Council told the Galway City Tribune that the purpose of the CPO is not to upgrade the through road between the Headford Road and the Tuam Road but to facilitate access to a parcel of its own land for housing development.

“The land take is not designed to be a transport measure. Bothar an Chóiste is not intended to serve as anything other than an access and egress point for local residents. The extent that we’re upgrading is the extent of residentially zoned land,” he stated.

One valid submission was received by the end of December deadline and has been forwarded by the board to the Council for consideration.

If the CPO is approved by an Bord Pleanála, the Council would prepare a design for housing and the road widening and seek funding from the Department of Housing. It would also be obliged to seek approval from Galway City Councillors for a part 8 development.

An application to build 74 homes a short distance away on the school Road was turned down by An Bord Pleanála after being rejected by the Council which had asked the developer, Altitude Distribution, to increase the housing density. The appeals board found the development would constitute a traffic hazard due to the width of the road and shortcomings with the layout because of site constraints.

A Bothar an Chóiste resident told the Galway City Tribune there were no details of what measures would be implemented to improve pedestrian and cyclist safety on what was already a highly-trafficked road.

“From a road safety stand point, marginally widening the road will only add to the already endemic ‘rat run’ culture as cars will be have a straighter road on which they can travel faster, with more danger for pedestrians, cyclists, families with buggies and small children getting to and from housing units to local shops, the Ballinfoile Castlegar Neighbourhood Centre, schools and other amenities,” she predicted.

“Making this road easier for cars to travel by widening means that even bigger, heavier vehicles that currently avoid it as it is narrow and bendy will make it even more detrimental to vulnerable road users.

“Housing units are welcome, but these builds should have the essential services and safe interconnected infrastructure for most vulnerable road users at the heart of the road widening proposals. It’s counter-productive to propose road widening without thoughtful footpaths and cyclepaths that will further lock local residents into car culture.”

The Council spokesperson said the design would facilitate pedestrian movements and public lighting to encourage active travel.

An Bord Pleanála is scheduled to hand down its decision by May.

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