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Opinion: I've never been so excited about Dublin's future – a Dodder Greenway would be incredible

Imagine a walking and cycling route following the River Dodder – the whole way from the mountains to the sea!

Image: William Murphy via Flickr/Creative Commons

I DON’T THINK I’ve ever been so excited about the future of my city as I am after reading engineer Roughan O’Donovan’s proposal for a Dodder Greenway from Grand Canal Dock to the Dublin mountains.

This isn’t some greenie’s pipe dream. Aecon’s ‘River Dodder Greenway from the Sea to the Mountains – feasibility study report’ actually forms the basis for a tendering process which South Dublin County Council has initiated for project management and environmental consultancy on the proposed greenway.

Clearly, there’s a long way to go before this dream is realised. But now it is there in black-and-white I think it will attract huge public support. Imagine a walking and cycling route following the River Dodder – the whole way from the mountains to the sea!

The Greenway links the bustling docklands with Ringsend, Irishtown, Ballsbridge, Donnybrook, Clonskeagh, Milltown, Dartry, Rathfarnham, Templeogue, Firhouse and Tallaght.

The vision

And this brilliant report imagines many other ways to link with the Dodder Greenway: a new bridge at Sir John Rogerson’s Quay would link the docklands to the Poolbeg peninsula; it could be linked to the Sutton to Sandycove cycle path; at Clonskeagh a new entrance through the Beech Hill Business Park would link it directly with UCD; a spin-off cycle-way up Richmond Hill at Milltown would bring cyclists directly off the Dodder and into town; best of all is the fact that the Dodder Greenway would eventually link with the Dublin Mountains Trail at the Kiltipper Woods Cafe.

The report reckons that car journeys along the route could be reduced by 20% and that by 2020 all commutes along the Greenway would be by bike. Just think how attractive that will make living within reach of the track. And just think how much more attractive the Greenway would make the city as a place to invest. There is even a funky idea to power the public lighting with small hydroelectric mills at certain locations on the river.

A massive wildlife corridor

The Greenway would create a massive wildlife corridor, linking Glenasmole with Kiltipper Park, Dodder Valley Park, Bushy Park, Orwell Park, Dartry Park and Herbert Park, giving free rein to otters, bats and birds.

The Dodder Greenway would turn up the volume on the natural attractions we all know our city has, situated as it is between the mountains and the sea and intersected by living rivers and canals. And as community group Dodder Action never tires of repeating, the Dodder is among the finest city rivers in Europe.

The Aecon report lists, for instance, the interesting plant species in the Scully’s Field parkland beside the river at Milltown: giant fescue, broad leaved helleborine, ivy broomrage, three corned leek and bulbous buttercup.

Five species of bat were recorded in the field some years ago and the report recommends artificial otter holts to maintain the otter population, while just upriver at Orwell Weir, salmon runs are recommended to help the fish swim up.

Dodder Valley Park, between Old Bawn Bridge and Firhouse Bridge is a calcareous grassland and home to rare plants such as early purple orchids, as well as 48 species of bird, including the little grebe, the kingfisher, the dipper and the grey wagtail.
And of course the tourism spin-offs would be huge. In Wales the ‘Taff Trail’ from Cardiff to the Brecon Beacons attracts hundreds of thousands of users and generates over 21 million (sterling) to the local economy. The Danube Cycleway hosts literally millions of trips every year.

Replicated around the country

The Aecon report is ambitious that the Dodder Greenway would be of world-class standard and quickly internationally renowned. And, what’s more, that it would be replicated around the country.

The report envisages big infrastructural changes in order to make the Dodder Greenway happen, such as a possible boardwalk at Ballsbridge and bridges at either end of the “Oxbow” in the river at the Kilvere estate in Templeogue.

There may have to be compulsory purchase orders to complete the Greenway, possibly of land in the Herbert Park Hotel area in Ballsbridge, on the fringes of Milltown Golf Club, behind the Templeogue Road and the Kiltipper Road. But the report envisages a gradual approach and sketches alternatives in most cases.

I know I want this Greenway to happen before my kids are scattering my ashes in the Dodder, but Dublin will have to get behind it. Come along to the Dodder Heritage Day walk , in aid of Dodder Action, on Saturday, September 13th, starting at Rathfarnham Bridge at 2.30 pm and ending at Packhorse Bridge, led by historian of the Dodder mills, Rob Goodbody and Dodder ecologist, Tim Clabon.

Take the first steps on your riverside path from the mountains to the sea.

See, Dodder Action on Facebook or Twitter or email on

Column: The Dodder is one of Europe’s best-preserved city rivers – with huge unexploited potential

Read: Galway-Dublin cycle route takes shape as preferred final stretch revealed


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