Irish in Toronto are upset that Ireland Park, Toronto’s famine memorial, has been closed since 2010 despite constant promises from the authorities to re-open it.
The waterfront Ireland Park, in Toronto, dedicated to the Irish famine victims, was officially launched by former president Mary McAleese in 2007. However the Irish tourist attraction in Canada remains closed due to a construction site surrounding the area.
The $3.8 million park, including statues by Rowan Gillespie, remains behind a building site barricade and “no trespassing” signs, according to the Irish Times report.
Run by the Ireland Park Foundation, the memorial park was funded with $483,000 from the Irish Government, along with Canadian and private donors.
Ireland Park is a memorial to the 38,000 Irish who arrived on Toronto’s Lake Ontario shore between May and October of 1847. More than one thousand of them died that summer.
Inside the now closed park is a wall made of Irish limestone where the names of the dead immigrants are carved. There are also five bronze sculptures by internationally renowned Dublin-based artist Rowan Gillespie.
According to the Irish Times this wall is visible over the construction barriers and tourists are often seen attempting to take photos from the adjacent parking lot.
The park was closed in 2010. The Toronto Sun reported in March 2010 that Ireland Park was “almost impossible to find, let alone reach.” They also reported that the City of Toronto was planning to build a pathway to make it easier to access the park. However, the construction was more complex than previously thought.
In 2011 the Star reported, “A waterfront park that honours refugees from the Irish famine has been closed since 2010 and is unlikely to reopen until next year.”
Responding to this report the City of Toronto released a statement saying, “access to the park should reopen early in 2012.” However now, half way through the year, the park remains closed.
Robert G Kearns, Chair of the Ireland Park Foundation, told the Times that although he would be thrilled to see the park reopened it was a complex issue. He said that when the $4.8 million extension to the quay wall is complete it will enhance the park. When this project is complete it will provide a tree-lined lakeside promenade, a lasting legacy for hundreds of years.
The City of Toronto now estimates that the park will reopen in December 2013.