Photo Credit: Tambako The Jaguar

Phoenix Park was a significant part of my childhood when growing up not far from the North Circular Road gate. It is still very accessible when moving Southside to Crumlin and Kimmage. It was founded in 1662 as a royal deer park of 2,000 acres by the viceroy Earl of Ormonde. Today it consists of 1,750 acres and is the largest enclosed park in Europe.

The park is a great oasis of nature in the city of Dublin. However, there is too much car traffic in the park and it spoils its enjoyment. It is reckoned that there are in the region of 10 million car journeys annually there, including a good deal for use as a through route in the city, and many cars ruin the grass by parking on it. 

At the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, the peripheral gates of the park were closed to traffic, which made life great for walkers, runners and cyclists. Unfortunately, the car lobby succeeded in getting the gates re-opened after a short time. We need to address transport in the Phoenix Park to tackle climate change and to enhance the beauty and nature of this fine institution.

An Taisce has written on the future of Phoenix Park. In June 2020 An Taisce wrote a submission to Draft Phoenix Park Visitor Experience Strategic Review (June 2019) and in June 2020 wrote a letter to OPW about the benefits of reduced traffic in the park during COVID restrictions.

Currently, traffic regulations have changed to install a cul de sac near the Furry Glen, a one-way system on the North Road and a general 30km speed limit throughout the park. These are hopefully part of a long-term plan to improve active mobility in the park and limit the use of private cars. 

On a recent cycle trip in the park, it was great to enjoy the freedom of the (now) car-free road from the Chapelizod gate to the Furry Glen. However, the plan to have a bus service in the park has fallen at the first hurdle when it was found that the buses are too large to go through the park gates!

A cycle through the Phoenix Park makes it an enjoyable part of any excursion. On a bike, it is very easy to stop and explore. On one trip, I walked around a small lake containing an island near Farmleigh, where I spotted some good bird life, including coots, moorhens, tufted ducks and a big all-white duck or goose which I can’t identify! The fallow deer herd of around 600 which is descended in part from the original deer placed in the park, is a great sight. However, here again humanity is encroaching as people get up close and personal with the animals and feed them, despite all the signs to keep your distance. They should remain wild animals and lead their own life.

I love running in the park and do 5-6 miles regularly (I still think in old money!) It’s great to jog over large stretches of grass tracks without having to meet traffic. Enjoying the park view and its flora and fauna while running makes it a fine experience. Thus it aids both physical and mental health.

There are great institutions in the park to enjoy on your travels. The American embassy has lovely grounds to admire from the “15 acres” (which is a misnomer!) Aras an Uachtarain is open to visitors. It was good that President Mary McAleese oversaw the gift of land to increase the size of Dublin Zoo and make it more animal-friendly. Having met her recently in Christ Church Cathedral  (where she is an ecumenical canon), she said she ensured that the best piece of land in the Aras was transferred! The polo and cricket grounds have a long history in the park.

The Phoenix Park is a major amenity for the citizens of Dublin and we need to ensure it remains so. It is primarily for non-car use and to get away from the noise and busyness of the city. As the days get longer with better weather, we should all get to the park on our bikes, walk if we live nearby or use the park bus when it gets through those park gates!

Eric Conroy

Like this blog? Read Eric's last blog about the Deep Sinking along the Royal Canal.