A new state-of-the-art playground in Rann na Feirste has been opened to the public in recent days.
Páirc Súgartha Rann na Feirste was developed at a cost of €151,000 and is the culmination of three years of hard work.
The progressive local committee, Coiste Forbatha Rann na Feirste, have now set their sights on completing a €100,000 walk around Loch Bhríde.
It’s a great boost to a local community who, three years ago, were left with ungritted roads during the winter months.
Damien Ó Dónaill, Secretary, Coiste Forbatha Rann na Feirste takes up the story.
“In 2017, Donegal County Council stopped gritting local roads which were used daily by Bus Feda on their vital daily service to Galway and John O’Donnell who does all the local school bus runs and also provides transport for the Health Service Executive. There is a primary school, a community centre, a Naíonra and many other businesses in the area. People were taking a risk to get to their work because they hadn’t a simple service like having the road gritted. A number of people got together as a group to fight for that and then the committee grew and other plans were made to improve the infrastructure in the area,” he explained.
Since then, they’ve helped to secure a defibrillator for the local community, campaigned for local roads to be widened (close to €300,000 has been invested to date and there are two phases left to be completed to finish the resurfacing of the road) and got fibre broadband into the area.
“The fibre broadband was very important for the local Irish college and also for those working from home during the Covid pandemic. The road widening was a massive undertaking and as a committee we had to attend meetings with Government Ministers, County Councillors and officials to make our case and thankfully we have seen great progress to date. The committee had to get permission from all the landowners along the road and their support was overwhelming. We would really hope to see this project complete in 2021,” Mr Ó Dónaill said.
In 2018, the group set its sights on developing a playground for children in the locality. Aodh Mac Ruairí, who was manager of the Áislann at the time, made an application to Leader for grant funding. That brought in €126,000 with the local community charged with raising the additional €30,000.
They had managed to gather around €18,000 thanks to a number of events, including the Valentine’s night dinner in the Áislann and €10,000 from Pat ‘The Cope’ Gallagher. Then, Covid struck.
“As a committee we were afraid that the playground project would have to be delayed for a year at least, however, after a number of meetings we said that we would dig in and find a solution,” he said.
Starting with a Facebook campaign and a series of videos with local actors Niall Mac Eacmharcaigh and Hughie ‘beag’ Ó Duibheanaigh and finishing with the online concert with Clann Mhic Ruairí, the goal was reached before the end of June and a further €20,000 was raised.
Mr John O’Donnell, chairman of the coiste forbartha, said they were overwhelmed with the support that came from all around the world.
“We would like to thank the committee, past and present members, the Áislann team, past and present, along with Leader, the local councillors, Donegal County council and everybody else that made this idea possible,” Mr O’Donnell said.
“Unfortunately we cannot have a proper celebration due to Covid-19 but we will mark the occasion at a later date,” he added.
Meanwhile, work is progressing on the lakeside walk project with the local committee working with Donegal County Council and Inga Bock, Rural Recreation Officer.
“A lot of money has already been spent and we’ve probably eighty per cent of the work done at this stage. Again, there’s been a lot of local fund raising but we’re also very thankful to the forty or so landowners without whose permission this project would never have been able to happen,” Mr O’Donnell said.
“We never thought back in 2017 that so much would have been achieved and that so much investment would have been made in Rann na Feirste but we have seen now more than ever during the Covid pandemic how important it is to have amenities within your 5km radius and we’re very thankful to each and every person that have helped in anyway to develop the area.
“There has always been development committees in Rann na Feirste and we hope now that other people can join this committee to aim towards new projects in 2021. So much more can be achieved and fresh voices and ideas can always help,” the chairman added.