Over a five year period, approximately 100,000 native Irish trees were planted by the people and schools of Galway city, thus creating an expansive natural habitat for a wide variety of flora and fauna located not far from the city centre that connects into the vast Lough Corrib waterways, one of the most cherished areas of biodiversity in the country.
Within its grounds or on the park’s periphery, lies a rich fabric of Galway city’s history that includes working farmlands, the ruins of medieval castles, forgotten canals, the remains of a Georgian garden and WW2 urban allotments, Victorian railway lines and engineering waterworks.
A multi-sectoral steering committee was re-established in 2012 to help promote community engagement and to develop a long-term strategic plan for this wonderful green resource. Under the auspices of Galway City Council, it includes representatives from the City Parks’ department, Galway Education Centre, HSE, An Taisce, the Community Forum, GMIT and NUI Galway.
Unfortunately it was cancelled by city council in 2014 but it is expected to reconvene later this year with a new format.
Regular annual events include nature detective walks, native tree plantings, wildflower seed dispersal projects, third level science research programmes, organic gardening and a harvest festival. One particularly interesting initiative is ‘Slí na gCaisleán’, a pioneering pedestrian and cycling Greenway connecting Terryland Castle to six other castles that has the potential to become a world-renowned amenity to be shared by tourist and local alike.
In the early years of its formation, a programme of family picnic days, outdoor theatre, art workshops, community tree and school children bulb planting days took place in the park that often attracted thousands of participants. These activities hopefully will be revived post COVID.
The 'Fighting Irish' put down roots in an Irish forest.
Thanks to the great efforts of community, educationalist and social activist Nell Buckley, the American Notre Dame University has this month become part of the story of Terryland Forest Park. This renowned university from Indiana USA operates a Global Centre at Kylemore Abbey in Connemara for its American students who can attend courses at the University of Galway. At part of a Sustainability programme, Nell has connected the Notre Dame students with the Tuatha of Terryland Forest Park to provide opportunities for environmental, Irish heritage and biodiversity activities. We are delighted to assist these endeavours and are working at putting in place a programme for the new academic year commencing in September.
To start 'the ball rolling', the American students were brought on a guided tour of the forest park along its new human and nature heritage trails as part of the Galway National Park City 'Outdoor Classroom' initiative which included aspects of traveller and rural farming culture. After the tour the students took part in a litter pick.
There are several accounts of how this American university got its nickname the 'Fighting Irish'. From its beginnings Notre Dame (Our Lady) had strong connections to Ireland. The founders of this university in 1842 were Irish and French priests. Its connections with Ireland increased dramatically in the subsequent years. One theory is that the nickname came from one of its presidents Father William Corby who served as Union Army chaplain to the legendary Irish Brigade during the American Civil War. A statute of him was erected in 1910 on the site of the Battle of Gettysburg (the first to honour a non-general) in recognition of his bravery. The moniker became mainstream as a result of a violent confrontation in 1924 between Notre Dame students and the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) a white supremacist and anti-Catholic movement. The university's role as a high-profile Catholic educational institution made it a target in a country where anti-Catholicism still ran deep. To intimidate the Catholic and Irish-American students, the Klan came in large numbers for a week long gathering to the city of South Bend that lay just south of the university campus. The students in their hundreds took on the Klansmen stopping many of them getting off trains and tearing up their banners and flags. Faced with the hostility of the students, after a few days the Klan called off their 'Klavern' and left the city. It led to the end of this racist movement's presence in Indiana.