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Community garden ordered to close its gates "just as the gooseberries ripen"

An Óige is selling the property and grounds – but the volunteers who run the garden say it would be a huge boon to whoever buys the site.

A COMMUNITY GARDEN set up by volunteers ten years ago has been told to vacate its grounds, next to a former An Óige hostel, by the end of the month.

The Doorus Orchard Garden, in Kinvara County Galway, was established by horticulturalist Lynn O’Keeffe-Lascar and a group of interested locals in 2005.

It’s been a huge hit in the area, and is regularly used to stage community fetes and other events by the local scout group and other local organisations. The Dolmen Centre, which works with people with disabilities, also stages regular visits to the garden.

It was featured on RTÉ’s Nationwide last summer – and over 400 people showed up for its Harvest Picnic ten-year celebrations last September.

The initiative, however, will be making the most of its last harvest in the early days of next week – unless some arrangement can be reached with An Óige, which is selling the property and has told the organisers of the garden that they’ll have to leave by 30 June.

The hostel itself has been closed for the last four years, and was recently put up for sale.

“There’s allotments fully planted up and this is happening just as the gooseberries ripen,” O’Keeffe-Lascar said.

“We had a buyer who was interested in keeping it up – but they’ve pulled out and now we don’t know what’s happening.”

We just want to be able to negotiate with them. If a company – a café or whatever – was to buy this as a going concern, it would a huge plus, surely, to have something like this in the grounds.

boy Source: Nutan Photography for Doorus Community Garden

O’Keeffe-Lascar said they would have no option but to dismantle the clay pizza oven that’s been constructed in the garden, along with other structures, unless a way forward can be agreed by next week.

However, she’s written to dozens of sponsors of the garden – and says a there’ll be a strong local campaign of opposition to the closure.

orchard Source: Doorus Orchard Project

In a statement, An Óige said it recognised the work the group had been doing at the site – but added that they’d already been granted a number of extensions to stay.

“Our agreement with the group has always been a temporary one to which we waived any fee for using the property since 2004.

“However, An Óige is under contractual obligation to our bankers, and as part of that commitment, we have reluctantly agreed to the sale of a number of hostels, Doorus among them.

“We advised the group of this possibility by email on 12th January 2015 and confirmed by email on 22nd April 2015 that they would need to vacate the garden by 20th May 2015.

“At their request, we extended permission to use the garden until 2nd June, to allow two groups they had booked in to visit.

It is unfortunate that the situation has come to this but our auctioneer advises us that there are many parties interested in the property and we are obligated to get the property ready for full vacant possession.

O’Keeffe-Lascar contends that taxpayers have invested €80,000 in the garden over the last decade “through grants, fundraising, apple sales and salaries of a CE Scheme worker and a TUS worker”. 

“It will be like Sleeping Beauty in there if we have to vacate – even for a few months,” she said. 

More details at the garden website and at its Facebook page. 

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