20 years on, this park is a treasure

Time Out with Paul Healy

The plaque at the entrance doesn’t lie: it really is 20 years this year since a ministerial car swept into town and our newly-unveiled gem, Loughnaneane Park, was officially opened.

If that’s how fast 20 years passes (and it obviously is), then we should all indeed focus on taking time to ‘smell the roses’.

There are lots of scents to experience at Loughnaneane Park, and they’re all appealing. This particular gem is a 14-acre amenity, now a fully developed recreational park wrapped around the ruins of Roscommon Castle.

Loughnaneane Park is a treasure… cherishing nature, celebrating our history, a walkers’ delight… even containing a playground for toddlers, and an outdoor gym for all.

Last Friday at 11 am, the sun was shining, the park showcased in all its beauty. At the castle, about ten visitors – in small groups – enjoyed the ambience…  exploring, gazing, whispering.

The 13th century Norman castle was the centre of Anglo-Norman power until the mid-14th century. For two centuries, it was the residence of the kings of Connacht.

Around the popular ‘duck pond’ parents strolled with small children, inviting time to slow, enjoying time to think. In Loughnaneane Park, sound isn’t wasted. There are no lorries or cars, noisy devices, machinery, loud conversation. Birds sing, buggies gently spin their wheels, and from the playground, there is the lilt of laughter.

There have been many developments over the years. There’s a Sculpture Trail, and Wildflower and  Birdwatching Areas. A turlough on the western part of the site is peaceful and well worth visiting. This is a wildlife conservation area which is a habitat of unique flora and fauna. There are many more places of interest within the park, all well signposted and explained.

It was Kerry’s John O’Donoghue who had the honours on that October day in 2003, being the Minister for Arts, Sport & Tourism at the time. Most of the local dignitaries were there, the cameras flashing. It certainly doesn’t seem like 20 years ago. We were very proud of our beaming new amenity that day, of the great transformation that had taken place.

It was a particularly proud occasion for then County Engineer Vincent Brennan, who had the vision and determination to bring the project to fruition. The park was designed by Murray & Associates, with Roscommon County Council and Roscommon LEADER Partnership key drivers. A word too for Roscommon Tidy Towns Association, enthusiastic and proactively  supportive from the beginning.

As I was leaving on Friday, a few local teachers were leading a group of small schoolchildren into the park. Welcome to our wonderland. It is a gem, a place of calmness and beauty. It can’t stop time, but it slows it just beautifully.