Seven spots along the Grand Canal could potentially be used for kayaking, paddleboarding and canoeing, according to a recent survey commissioned by Dublin City Council and Waterways Ireland.
The section of the canal between Kylemore Road and Portobello – around 5km – could be a “community blue lane”, said Humphrey Murphy, a consultant, at a meeting on September 21 from the south-central zone committee of the council.
This would mean, for example, local community groups getting involved in providing water sports along the strip, said Murphy, CEO of Irish Leisure Consultants (ILC), which carried out the research.
To attract more visitors, the entire canal area should be beautified with better pathways, lighting and information boards telling a story of the place, Murphy said.
“There is a high value placed on the canal by people in the communities along it. There’s also the perception that there are a number of opportunities out there that haven’t been realized yet,” he said.
“The overall challenge then is how do you realize what people see as potential? How do we create this value? Murphy said.
where it can work
Murphy’s report focused on seven places along the Grand Canal where steps to water and boat storage could be added.
Ideally, an established water sports provider would come on board, but then locals could be trained to become instructors themselves, Murphy said.
Summer activities could start first, he said, and then hopefully could take place year-round.
In the future, more water sports infrastructure could be added for new activities, such as slalom courses, canoe polo and flotillas, he said.
Murphy pointed to Cabra Kayak Club, which walk with local communities to increase participation in paddle sports along the Royal Canal.
It happened the same way, he said. A Cabra Kayak Club contractor found instructors in the area, Murphy said, so it became a local club rather than one run by an outside company.
The goal is to increase the capacity of local groups to carry out these activities, Murphy said. “To support the acquisition of equipment, kayaks, etc. over a period of time.”
“There needs to be programs and some manpower over a period of two or three years to develop this kind of awareness, opportunity and engagement of local communities in the on-water potential of the channel,” he said.
Vincent Jackson, an independent adviser, said there was already kayaking at Ballyfermot Youth Service Adventure Center to Park West, which is further west along the canal.
Staff at the Ballyfermot center could help create more canal activity, he said. “It’s something that can offer so much.”
Attract people to the water
The canal needs to be more like a destination, if people are going to visit it to participate in water sports, Murphy said.
So they polled people — he didn’t say how many and who — to see what they think of the channel right now, and what they think could be improved.
People and organizations ILC interviewed along the canal used words like “beautiful” and “tranquil” to describe the canal, Murphy said, because it is a quiet green space in a very urban area.
“As an area that in a way is a repository of heritage, especially for the older residents of the area,” he said.
It’s dynamic with cycling and walking, he said, although people have suggested there could be better paths, more bins and seats.
Signs about the canal’s history and biodiversity could attract people who don’t go near the canal right now, Murphy said.
“There’s plenty of room on the canal for more people,” said Mick Kinahan, a Dublin representative of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, a charity that works to conserve waterways.
“Anything we have to do to keep the channel nice is what we have to do,” he says. “What if we could give people a better understanding of what channels are.”
Murphy says the canal should be lively and have better connections to the roads. “If those who don’t participate don’t have a meaningful route to participate, especially on the water, it just won’t happen.”
Interviewees on the channel also used words like “neglected” and “underutilized” to describe it, Murphy said.
Places along the canal are not well lit at night, and there are also isolated areas where people feel they are not visible to others even during the day, he said.
Kinahan says not enough is being done to conserve the canals, especially by those responsible for maintenance and upkeep.
“We don’t take care of any of them, be it the canal or the rivers, we don’t take care of them,” he said.
Six community groups are carrying out volunteer cleanups of the Grand Canal and surrounding areas, according to Friends of the Grand Canalwhich performs monthly canal cleanings around Portobello.
Stephanie Dooley, who attends these cleanups, says more people should use the channel because while it leads to more litter, it could also generate more interest in the cleanup.
Says Murphy: “If you use the flume, you’re less likely to spill into it.”
Interviewees said parts of the channel felt ignored, Murphy said. “There were general anti-social issues around litter, drug dealing, muggings, etc.”
But one survey respondent pointed out that whether or not something was considered “antisocial” behavior depended on who was doing the activity, Murphy said.
They said a group of beer-drinking teenagers might be seen as more antisocial than a group of wine-drinking tourists, Murphy said.
Sinn Féin councilor Máire Devine said the perception of anti-social behavior on the channel needed to change. “Mostly it was the hassle-free enjoyment of the waterways, which we think we enjoy, like I said,” she said.
Kayaking at Ballyfermot Youth Service Adventure Center has changed the perception of anti-social behavior along the canal in Park West, said Jackson, the independent adviser.
“I just think the canal is such a wonderful resource on our doorstep and for far too long it’s been taken for granted,” he said.
However, Murphy said some areas should be zoned exclusively for habitats. “We have to be careful not to literally scare the birds away from the canal.”
Sophie Nicoullaud, an independent consultant, asked if there was a project to create a swimming pool inside the canal.
“I hope it is and if not, what type of obstacles do we have? Paris did it during the summer on a temporary basis,” she said.
Murphy said water sports would likely have a positive ripple effect by encouraging people to learn to swim.
But, ‘at the moment there are issues with bathing in the canal which I cannot address here, it is really Waterways Ireland who can resolve this further,’ he said.
“But I know there is a desire it is possible to swim in the channel, but I know there are, as I said, limits around that currently,” he said. declared.
A spokesperson for Waterways Ireland said on Monday that “swimming in man-made channels is not permitted under current regulations”.
“Unlike a river or the sea, the movement of water in channels is restricted, which can create health risks for participants in an immersive activity,” the spokesperson said.