A priest is leading plans for a community ‘climate action park’ on church land in Aughrim, Co Galway.
Reverend John Godfrey is the rector of the Aughrim and Creagh Parish Union and he hopes the park will engage the local community with the issues of climate change and biodiversity loss.
“We were inspired back in 2019 by the Fridays For Future movement to do something urgent as a church community in response to the twin challenges of climate change and the biodiversity crisis.
“We asked ourselves if we could use church land in a creative way to sequester carbon, to support biodiversity and more importantly to engage the local community to help us make a difference.”
The park will sit on a four-acre site of land beside the rectory, which used to be used for grazing livestock.
“We will plant it with trees and hedgerows and wildflowers. We’ll create paths for people to access it and incorporate signage to help people interpret it to inspire them to make changes in their own lifestyle and the place where they live, to make a difference,” he explained.
“The climate action park has a range of ecologies within the site that make it so interesting. The richest area is a marshy wetland area that supports the widest variety of biodiversity. The area also includes a meadow, agricultural grassland, wooded copses, and a river ecosystem that runs through the site and provides a corridor for birds, insects and aquatic species to travel from here to neighbouring ecosystems.”
The project is a collaboration between the Reverend “and neighbouring churches of different traditions, with local people and with young people” and he hopes it will also become a symbol of unity.
The climate action park was given planning permission earlier this year, but they are awaiting archaeological sign-off before they can lay down the pathways and move forward with their large-scale tree planting efforts.
The Reverend has already been sharing the space with the community, however, “to keep the plans of the park alive”, and he said it became a really important place for people to “come and connect with nature” during the various lockdowns.
“One of the things that gives life to a church is to have purpose, to have a mission. When we realised the park was our mission, it gave enormous energy to everything we do in the parish,” he said.
“One of the privileges of parish ministry is you work with people of every age and stage and people are at different stages of understanding the climate and biodiversity crises. The climate action park gives us a focus on those issues and it is a symbol that they’re real and they matter.”
“The whole faith story is realising that the world is far from how it should be, but that each individual action matters. Every single positive thing we do has benefits we cannot yet imagine, we just have to start and then follow on from each positive step we take,” he added.