HOW THE CURRENT SOCIAL DISTANCING RULES COULD BE POSITIVE FOR OUTDOOR ACTIVITIES IN DUN LAOGHAIRE
Written by Michael Ó Mara
BACK TO THE FUTURE
A concept for the expansion of leisure facilities and improved amenity at the East Pier In Dun Laoghaire Harbour
Back in 2012, as a Resident of the town, I developed a number of concepts independently that would look at improving the amenity and expanding the available leisure activities of the harbour area. One of the concepts was the re-imaging of the East Pier (which was subsequently forwarded to a number of members of the council & the Dun Laoghaire Harbour Company (DLHC) during 2014) This was encouraged by the economic situation of the town at the time and was based on conceiving new ideas to boost footfall, retail & commercial opportunity and of course improving overall amenity for Residents & visitor alike.
During that time, the Harbour was managed by the now dissolved DLHC. Today the harbour and piers are now managed by the Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLRCOCO). With the new renaissance of management of the zone, this could provide a great opportunity to readdress and reignite the discussion on how we can encourage, provide and create a more encompassing environment for people & businesses to engage with the town and the surrounds utilising the Piers as the focal attractions.
This shall be particularly important now more so than ever if we are to encourage economy back to the town and local area following the lifting of restrictions and a gradual return to life as we knew it.
One of the methods suggested in 2012 (that can be readdressed for today’s circumstances) was for the development and expansion of the amenity at the East pier to start with. It is a popular recreation area (figures suggest over a 1 million visitors a year) at the best of times and has the potential to be one of the top recreational destinations of the future. Following that, a roll out plan to include improvements over the other piers, public areas and harbour area when feasible.
As such, the ambition and enthusiasm invested at the time envisioned the realisation of the concept by this year, 2020.
Now with the ‘lock-in’ it might be the time for consideration once more.
GRAPHIC – SOCIAL – DISTANCING
Soon after the introduction of restrictions on movement due to the implications of spreading Covid 19 Coronavirus, social distancing was introduced and the common two person Social Distancing 2 meter graphic (SD2M) is now typically seen in various public areas. Largely, people are adhering to this distancing be they walking, running, skating, biking or scooting. By Maintaining the distances which have been visually defined on the ground (if we consider this as an experiment on the implications of the following proposal) – people can now enjoy these activities less encumbered and are far more aware of other people within their vicinity.
Historically, there have been gradual restrictions introduced in the form of bye-laws put in place on the piers to discourage uses of certain modes of transport: Bikes, skateboards, roller blades etc. Considered by many as truly counterproductive, but more so based possibly on the concerns of certain user groups to being run over or stepping in front of runners, bikers or skaters to potential detriment.
There is also a mindset that suggests that Ireland is a country testing positively for being overly litigious and as such every box has to ticked ‘just in case’ – but that is a debate for another time.
With the new SD2M graphics in place, people have become accustomed to keeping out of other peoples way, sticking to their line, giving the necessary safe distance and developing an enlightened sense of physical (And I dare say possibly spiritual) awareness which is evident if you visit the East pier or other public recreational areas these days.
The simple SD2M graphic reinforces awareness and encourages people to give way/ space and keep distance from other users be they on bikes, scooters, running or walking. This momentum could now be used in introducing improved amenity and facility at the East pier. What this suggests is that ground placed graphics work and people can interpret their message (with the exception of some who might still be using the imperial system ahead of the metric which was introduced to Ireland in the 1970’s). To clarify, 2 meters is 2.18 yards.
13 – 11 – 8
On the lower section (LS) of the pier the width available ranges from approximately 13 metres at its widest and 8 metres at its narrowest with a median of 11 meters from edge to wall of Upper section (US). At the narrowest point therefore, it could provide for 4x 2m colour adapted surfaces or delineated corridors not dissimilar to the white graphics currently in use.
Indeed the local traffic management departments use of colour adapted surfaces is already visible throughout the town. Coloured skid resistant surfacing could be installed to create an environment where it is evident that both pedestrians and other users are sharing the area.
TO THE FUTURE FROM THE PAST
2012 to 2020
My original concept from 2012 for the East pier consists of 3 developmental phases:
Note: that at the time 2012 to 2014 there was a discussion of placing a floating heated outdoor pool on the Pier – I included this in the renders as it was contemporary at the time, but this was not my concept.
To define user areas for different activities: On the LS as it is the widest, to create areas for:
a) Running (green)
b) Skating, scooting, blading etc. (red)
c) Walking (yellow)
To introduce infrastructure to provide greater amenity and facility:
a) To remove existing benches along wall and install fixed gym equipment every 100 meters (Simple assault course style pull up bars, press bars, seated structures etc – similar to what is already provided in Cabinteely park) There would be 12 units in total.
b) Picnic & BBQ areas (Marked in Magenta) on the edge of the pier. This would be great for families, friends, fishermen etc. A very common site throughout Europe, Australia, U.S. etc. To sit and dine at the pier side of an afternoon or evening would be a remarkable experience in Dublin
c) To introduce additional seating for the top level
To introduce a new walking experience: The Eastern Exposure trail (Marked in purple). There is considerable merit in taking to the rear of the East Pier to walk although the terrain can be difficult to many however it does offer a very unique perspective of Dun Laoghaire and the surrounds and is exceptionally different to walking along the other two levels.
By introducing a new walk on already existing infrastructure via a newly built boardwalk or concrete shuttered platform, this could also potentially attract more people to the facility and liberate the other two levels of a quantity of walkers during peak time. Indeed, if the future presented a similar issue such as we are presently experiencing with the pandemic, such a facility could be dictated as one directional during crisis so that people could walk out the ‘Eastern exposure’ track and back the original levels. Just imagine the spectacle of a new walking level at the pier. For many locals it would bring a whole new perspective to the ‘pier walk’.
The 3rd Phase would actually further the experience of the current ongoing project that is the renovation of the old Baths and the introduction of a new walkway between the Sandycove seafront and Dun laoghaire East pier. The ‘Eastern Exposure’ route would be the jewel at the end of this walk. Taking you deep out to sea (and back again obviously)
A further concept was devised to convert the enclosed area of the lighthouse into a café/ bistro area. This will be addressed in another post.
Rather than re-inventing the wheel, the concepts employ the use of existing infrastructure with modifications and clearly defined engagement platforms for different pursuits to accommodate all the walkers, skaters, scooters, runners and fitness and unfitness conscious members of the population.
I was particularly impressed by a project in the South of Spain whereby they developed infrastructure to link unconnected historical pathways, trails and other platforms along the coastline via boardwalk. This greatly extended the amenity of a coastal walking/ biking trail (Dun Laoghaire to Dublin coastal bike trail springs to mind!). This could be an option as structure for the Eastern Exposure trail. An alternative could be a concrete structure much like the groynes that exist along portions of the Eastern Exposure trail currently, but abutted to the break wall.
On the Hel peninsula, North Poland on the Baltic sea (With regard to the use of wood material on the coast) there is a wooden boardwalk pier that is culprit to extreme weather conditions. It would be a worthwhile investigation into the wood used for this purpose and environment. I suggest this as, the current popularity in the use of Cedar throughout Ireland would appear greatly misguided; it is a beautiful wood when new but visually deteriorates very quickly into a hideous, aged, stained and rough textured wood. (I will admit that there is a rare occasion when the wood is used externally and within a sheltered place devoid of any directional weathering – at a stretch – it can appear like a balanced, natural silver wood and object of ‘beauty’. (for J.O’N)
Below is a short video to present the concepts
An updated video of the concept from 2017 is available here:
And for the historians – the original 2012 version (video was uploaded 2014)