‘It’s absolutely flattened, it’s a big pancake of silt and rubbish’

By Hayden Moore

IT COULD take 40 years for the Tallaght Wetlands site to bounce back if it goes unchanged following the placing of silt on top of the area that was teaming with wildlife and full of protected bats, newts, frogs and critically endangered European eel according to a local conservationist.

Following the dumping of more than four feet of silt on top of the site, South Dublin County Council released a statement on Monday that outlined how they have previously used that land for silt disposal – leaving many wondering what the future holds for the Tallaght wetlands.

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The Wetlands area in Sean Walsh Park

Since the turn of the year, local conservationist Collie Ennis had been working on the land to get an idea of what species lived there in preparation for a formal survey to be carried out next spring that would give an accurate figure on the population of amphibians living on the Tallaght wetlands site.

Collie, a science officer with the Herpetological Society of Ireland, spoke to The Echo about what sections, if any, of the site in Sean Walsh Memorial Park are salvageable.

“About 20 per cent around the edges of the mud and the drainage pond part could probably be salvaged – the pond is in good nick but the whole wetlands site is largely destroyed,” said Collie.

“You would have to get a heavy digger in to take the silt from the back out to be able to level it out to ground level again and let the remaining seeds in there to re-wild it.

“But it’s just absolutely flattened, it’s a big pancake of silt and rubbish.”

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Collie Ennis pointing at the wetlands

Collie made his way to the grounds in Sean Walsh Memorial Park on Saturday to document some species when he was met with the devastated lands. He visited it again on Monday to see if he could rescue any amphibians.

“I went down [on Monday] to see if I could find anything and I couldn’t, they’ve also stopped the stream where the eels were, which have dropped the water levels right down,” explained Mr Ennis.

“This makes it very easy for the birds to be able to get down and pick them off – it’s just heartbreaking.

“I won’t know how much the numbers have dropped until the spring when I can complete a formal survey, but it doesn’t seem positive.”

The silt, that is full of rubbish from the nearby man-made lakes, was dumped on top of the wetlands site and levelled – giving any life that thrived in the wetlands little chance of survival.

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The Tallaght Wetlands

Earlier this year when telling The Echo about frog spawn he found elsewhere in Tallaght, Collie also told us about the exact spot he found in Sean Walsh Park and called it a “little gem” because of how it was bursting with life – and proved a breeding ground for over 500 adult frogs.

“It was the sort of thing that you would see up the mountains, and to see it right in the heart of Tallaght, in a built-up area, was just brilliant,” explained Collie.

“It was full of little smooth newts, the common frog, European eels, bats and pine martens and foxes would come through as well.

“The area will bounce back in 40 years, but why should we have to wait that long? That area, a multi-layered ecosystem, was specifically put forward to be protected.”

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Included on the Proposed Draft Tallaght Town Centre Local Area Plan 2020-2026 as a “constructed wetlands” by South Dublin County Council, Collie has expressed his heartbreak with the prospect of seeing what could have come to fruition being completely destroyed.

“We sat in the car after finding it on Saturday just looking at each other, it was like somebody died – like we had just lost a friend.

“When you work so close with something you have an infinity with it, with the little creatures there, and I was looking forward to the day when we cut the ribbon on the boardwalk with the wetlands.

“I was in talks with the council to build a boardwalk there and have it serve as a flagship site to model other greenway spaces after, with minimal disturbance of course, but I don’t know where we stand with that now.”

This week it was confirmed in the Dail that an investigation has been carried out into the matter.

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