Belfast Telegraph

Peace work from the Ground up to tackle park problem

A group of north Belfast people who are involved in cross-community work have returned from a conference in Monaghan where they shared tips with groups from other parts of the island.

The residential on Reconciling Communities through Regeneration was run by Groundwork NI which has received £1m EU funding for a three year programme. North Belfast is one of the areas to be given £50,000 and the scheme is focusing on the area around Alexandra Park, infamous for being the only park in western Europe with a peace wall running through it.

The idea is to improve the environment for local people while tackling sectarianism and racism.

Melvyn Waddell, of Groundwork NI, explained that they had set up a cross-community steering group drawn from all the residents’ groups in the area — Alexandra Park, Tigers Bay, Parkside Newington and Castleton, Camberwell and Dunmore.

“We have carried out a consultation exercise asking people what they would like to see developed in Alexandra Park. They are keen to set up a Friends of Alexandra Park group and have already set up a website for residents to join and find out what the group are doing.”

He said they were starting to develop proposals and had a tremendous response to a questionnaire asking people for their views on what needed to be done with over 180 responses. “We asked people what were the problems with the park — anti-social behaviour, lack of facilities and so on,” he said.

“The steering group have highlighted a range of priorities such as a nature trail, upgrading the play area, adding some seating.”

He added: “We have a landscape service in Groundwork so we are developing landscape proposals to see what to spend the £50,000 on.”

Groundwork hopes to draw down further funding to work on the park and Mr Waddell added that Belfast City Council was doing its bit to help.

“The council have given a commitment to doing some other work in the park that will enhance the safety and contribute to the improvement of the park such as cutting back trees and treating invasive species,” he said.

The steering group meets with the police and the council already and over the three year lifetime of the project they hope to meet with the Northern Ireland Office, which owns the wall, to see what can be done about it. In the short term that could mean improving the appearance of the wall.

Aidan McLoone, of Groundwork, said the residential in Monaghan was a networking opportunity for all the groups from both sides of the border as well as offering training. “They got to share best practice and let people know what’s happening on the ground.”

The steering group’s website is at http://alexandrapark.webs.com/.

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