Water quality advocates visit River Ara Walk in Tipperary town


A group of more than sixty  public sector staff  attending the quarterly meeting of the South East Region Water Framework Directive Operational Committee in Ballykisteen Hotel, Tipperary, were left highly impressed by ‘The River Ara walk’ which they undertook as part of the gathering. These staff work represent the wide range of sectors who work to protect water quality in the South East.

The impressive public walk development along the River Ara in the heart of Tipperary town provides a perfect template for future planning for water, climate, biodiversity and amenity in an urban setting – the new walk has enabled the town to embrace it’s river as an amenity, and supports a new appreciation of the river as an important environmental asset within the locality.

Although water quality in the river, which is a tributary of the River Suir, is categorised as being poor to moderate and brings many challenges, there is great optimism that a whole suite of measures being implemented will help to improve quality and create a vibrant amenity in the heart of the town.

The river rises on the Tipperary/Limerick border and eventually discharges into the River Aherlow before linking with the River Suir en-route to Waterford.

The walk which was undertaken by Tipperary County Council in collaboration with the Department of Education through Abbey CBS, builds in a number of concepts including an outdoor classroom, nature-based solutions following natural processes, wetland creation, information signage as well as amenity enhancements including a playground. There is also a viewing bridge spanning the wetlands which allows for the possibility of getting closer to wetland life.

Taking a multiple benefit approach, the project team within Tipperary County Council accessed a range of funding streams and worked with the Local Authority Water Programme (LAWPRO), Inland Fisheries Ireland, the Tidy Towns and Abbey CBS, which owned much of the land, to develop the amenity which is being used widely by the community. The intention also is to promote a better appreciation of the river by upstream stakeholders with a view to providing a sense of pride of place and encourage greater water stewardship ownership.

The guided tour which was conducted by LAWPRO Director, Anthony Coleman and Dr. Fran Igoe, Regional Co-Ordinator for the South East Region (pictured above taking a water sample from the river) described the concept and manner in which the project was negotiated with the regulators and stakeholders resulting in the agreed design and permissions incorporating multiple benefits and nature-based solutions.

Specific concepts covered included large woody debris, wetland creation, hydromorphology, climate adaptation and upscaling nature based solutions.

“A lot of work went into this project which started out as a proposal on the part of Tipperary Town Council many years ago. But, it ran into a number of obstacles before eventually delivering what we have now which is a really important public walk way along the river and something which the town can be very proud of,” Anthony Coleman told those in attendance.

During the course of the tour, samples were taken from the river by Dr. Fran Igoe who demonstrated how testing is conducted. He also pointed out that the integrated wooded area through which the river flows, creates pools and ripples; helps to slow down the flow of water in a natural way; and provides the perfect conditions for promoting river and fish life. He even pointed out where a salmon or a large brown trout had spawned within a section of the river flowing through the park indicating that the river has the potential to be restored if the water quality is improved.

“You will not get a better example of an urban river for a project like this one – usually man has interfered with the river by taking out bends or altering the banks. With a bit of creativity and thinking, we have managed to achieve a lot in a short stretch. We could have cleaned out the trees and wooded area from the river and this would have increased water flow, but that would have affected fish life greatly. Instead, we have left it in as natural a state as possible and it is really great to see so many people using the walkway and enjoying getting closer to nature. The information boards will help people to understand what this is all about too,” Dr. Fran Igoe said.

Clare Lee, Climate Action Coordinator with Tipperary County Council also spoke about the new Tipperary County Council Climate Action Plan 2024 – 2029, its actions, and how they will support and inform climate adaptation and mitigation measures in Council service delivery. The integration of nature-based solutions across Council-led projects and infrastructure is an important action that will help deliver greater resilience to emerging climate change hazards such as increased flood events and extreme precipitation.

The new River Ara walk,  through its exemplary use of natural wetlands, vegetation and river habits, will help manage and regulate flood events.

Access to the walk, which is wheelchair friendly, is just opposite the Super Valu supermarket in Tipperary Town. It is approximately1km of a loop.