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23/09/2021

Work underway on major new amenity in Offaly town

Work underway on major new amenity in Offaly town

Work is underway at Kilcruttin on what will become a new amenity in Tullamore stretching to the back of the county library

WORK on what will become a major new amenity in Tullamore is well underway.

The wetlands river project will cover an area of the Tullamore River from the rear of the Tullamore Library following the river downstream and westwards to the railway line.

The main wetland area is at Srah and Kilcruttin, with riparian widening at Marian Place, wetland creation at the old mill pond at Main Street and Kilcruttin, tree trimming at the rear of Main Street and the Bridge Centre car park and river enhancement measures to the rear of Tullamore Library.

Main wetland area at Srah and Kilcruttin

It is proposed to convert this land into an attractive wetland filter area and wetland park as part of the project.

A raised berm or bank is to be sited perpendicular to the existing route of the river channel and used as an island for habitat value. The plan is to allow the main river channel to flow through a wide wetland area, creating filter and habitat marsh areas within the main body of the site. Over time it is envisaged that the river channel itself will become encroached with tall vegetation to provide physical filtration of any floating debris within the river and to slow the flow of water to allow sediments to settle out.

"Essentially we help to replicate the work carried out for free by beavers on natural river systems," says the water section of Offaly County Council.

The wetland will also help to provide space for the settlement of river-washed sediments which will help with downstream water quality improvement.

"Sediment accumulation will need to be addressed as part of an ongoing maintenance programme," a report into the plan states.

It is envisaged that this area of the project will provide valuable habitat for wetland wildlife such as riverside flora, dragonflies, butterflies and bird species. "Flowers such as lady's smock, meadowsweet, yellow flag, water mint and king cup are all beautiful wetland plant species that would grow well in this new area,'' it's envisaged.

Wetland creation at old mill pond (Main Street and Kilcruttin)

To the rear of the buildings on the south side of Main Street the river flows past the old mill. The weir and mill race are in disrepair and the mill pond has become silted and grown over with riparian vegetation. It is proposed to reinstate a riffle feature at the location of the old weir, with natural stone over a long run to allow ease of fish movement while at the same time allowing for a slight rise in the elevation of water levels upriver. This will raise the water level across the vegetated area within the mill pond and create a wetland habitat with the potential to allow greater silt removal than is currently the case, thus contributing to water quality improvements in the river.

Tree trimming of trees at the rear of Main Street

Litter has accumulated along the riverbank and gathered where the trees come in contact with the water. Provision of access for litter picking would allow for safe and straightforward removal by Tidy Towns groups or others as needed, the report highlights. It is proposed to avoid clearing too much overhanging vegetation at this location. Sycamore can be removed or cut back if desired, but alder, willow and elder all provide food for pollinators and birds and should be left to thrive. Similarly the bramble cover also provides food and shelter for birds and pollinators and should be left as is. Indeed, any tree or vegetative cover provides shelter for birds and mammals, including the otter, a report highlights.

River enhancement measures to the rear of Tullamore library

The river has become relatively ''canalised'' and slow in the area upstream of the library building. The plan for this location is to import gravel to raise the river bed level along a section of the canalised river base to allow for greater turbulence of the flowing water. The new riffle area will start just above the bridge to the rear of the library building, and continue upstream for c.50m.

For further habitat enhancement the area could be extended to the new Lidl car park, with alternating pool and riffle sections, it is suggested. This would further increase movement, sound and aeration of the water. The sinuous nature of the gravel placement will increase edge habitat and encourage more natural flow. Benefits for wildlife will include greater diversity of habitat for fish, aquatic insects and other wildlife.

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