Community Park project will be Community-driven

80-acre Zoning – After 60 years, a great leap forward

Public support was the key factor

On September 21, Meath Councillors voted to zone 80 acres of Killegland Farm for a community park. The following day, the County Development Plan 2021-27 was adopted, bringing a close to years of work by Councillors and MCC Staff.

Some procedural steps remain, and there may be legal or Ministerial interventions to aspects of the Plan, but it is very likely that the mirage that has eluded us since the 1960’s – a Community Park for Ashbourne – will shortly be one very important step closer.

How did this come about? Are there lessons to be learned here?

There are.

Like many an ‘overnight success’, this moment had been years in the making:

  • The Playspaces’ report was the bedrock of the case for the park. The Greenspaces’ research augmented that and was influential in fixing location. The professionals at MCC, the planners, the legal eagles and the Chief Executive together constructed a plan for Ashbourne that was farsighted, balanced and fair. And finally, our group of five Councillors expert coalition-building carried the day in the Council Chamber.
  • But Councillors and Community activists in Ashbourne had collectively been beating this drum for years. What was different this time? That’s easy: an unprecedented 300-plus public submissions in March 2020 and a cascade of 2,399 more in June 2021, facilitated by Greenspaces – that made the difference. All parties played their role – the clinching factor was the level of community engagement at the critical moment.

The key lesson: Well-reasoned arguments, evidence-based promotion, all play a part, but will only get you so far; at the end of the day, the degree of community interest and engagement determines the degree and quality of success achieved.

This was local democracy played out at its very best!

The Park will be a community-driven project

If Community participation has made the key difference so far, it will also be the ‘secret sauce’ that will determine how well the Park project will succeed. Will we achieve a high-quality version of what a Park can be, or will we settle for a minimal park of mediocre quality? The professionals at MCC and our Councillors have presented us with the opportunity; it is now up to us.

Let’s be clear, the Plan has Zoned 80 acres; we still must acquire the land. To move from Zoning to Owning will call for a major ramp-up in terms of effort and competencies required.  There will be many setbacks and regroupings; commitment for the long-term will be essential and community resolve will regularly be tested over the next few years. Ashbourne must marshall the collective genius of the Community, the sum of the skillsets, the inventiveness, the experience and the wisdom of our citizens, and channel it to tackle the many opportunities and challenges ahead.

We can take comfort in the certain knowledge that such competence exists in abundance in our community and that it has always answered the call in the past. Projects on this scale, though significant, won’t phase us. The lateral thinking, fund-sourcing, negotiation, interest-balancing, and political maneuvering called for are daily fare to many of our Citizens in their various careers.

So, when we say ‘Community-driven’, we mean just that, including:

  • Continuing to build a cohesive and diversified team to get stuck into exploring possibilities in terms of features and facilities for the Park,
  • developing a realistic funding strategy that will find the millions needed,
  • anticipating risks, from plain bad luck, to moves by parties who don’t want to see this dream succeed,
  • building the extensive organization that can marshall the multitude of skills, talents, and resources needed to deliver the dream,
  • negotiating the formula that reconciles all the conflicting interests of the many parties involved, to consistently find the ‘win-win’ solutions.

All this and much more is what we mean by Community-driven.

Next steps….

On June 1, Greenspaces published a discussion document that proposed ideas on the way forward. This can be viewed at www.

To harness the sentiment and enthusiasm we encountered on our two Submission campaigns, we launched ‘Friends of the Community Park’ in September. This group will be valuable when we are canvassing opinions and ideas and sometimes more directly when we are recruiting skills and experience to the program. We are in the very early stages of a survey to build a comprehensive catalogue of features, functions, ideas and opinions that will help shape the Park.  Over the Winter we will convene a Park conference to consolidate the myriad inputs and produce a ‘Statement of Requirements’ for the park. This will feed into a detailed planning process that will happen during 2022.

Zooming out for a moment, we should not forget that the area zoned for the Park occupies about a third of the overall Killegland landbank. How the totality of this landbank is used has strategic implications for the future of Ashbourne. Indeed, it would be short-sighted now to view the Park without taking the wider context into account. The discussions around these matters will determine what type of Town we will leave for our children and grandchildren.

Finally, and to return to the Park, the scale of this undertaking will require the participation of all parties, Community, Elected Representatives, MCC Executive, and Business. If we, the Community, abdicate our responsibility, if we leave it to others, we do so at our peril; it’s much too large and complex a project not to have all hands on deck. Our collective capabilities are called for here.

This Park is for the Ages, for the generations to come. Think long-term.

Greenspaces would like to thank all those many Citizens who have contributed to our thinking and offered their assistance for the road ahead.

Ní neart go cur le chéile (From Unity comes Strength).

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