The beauty of the Belvedere grounds and Lough Ennell should be accessible, say councillors.

Pleas to council to open Belvedere for exercise

Strong arguments calling for the reopening of the grounds of Belvedere House, Park and Gardens were made by members of the Mullingar Kinnegad Municipal District at their January monthly meeting, held last Monday.

The 160 acres of grounds surrounding the 281-year-old house, as well as Mullingar Swimming Pool and Athlone Regional Sports Centre, are among the locations that are closed to the public due to the Tier 5 coronavirus restrictions.

All other council parks and playgrounds remain open.

But Councillors Ken Glynn, Emily Wallace and Aoife Davitt made their case to have the grounds at Belvedere kept open, mainly as an option for those looking for a safe location to exercise during the pandemic.

Cllr Glynn said that some families who have children on the autism spectrum like walking at Belvedere, and he appealed to the executive to look again at the possibility of keeping the outdoor areas at the estate open.

The point made by Cllr Wallace was that during bad weather, with such short evenings it would provide a safer option than walking on the roads, while Cllr Davitt understood there might be fears about attracting in people from outside the 5km exercise area, the fact was that people from areas within 5km of Belvedere were contacting councillors “in droves” to ask if, at least, those with passes for Belvedere could be accommodated.

“We thought long and hard on this,” Mr Murray told members, stating that the decision had been made in line with the national principles.

“We felt we were in a different position than we were in March,” he said, explaining that there was a “different message” being relayed from the government and the HSE over the infection levels, and the council felt it was prudent to close it, but if the advice from government changes, the council will review the closure of the grounds.

Spelling out what measures have been put in place in Westmeath to comply with the Tier 5 requirements, director of services Martin Murray said that the community response line is in operation 24/7 at 1800 805 816 for anyone in need of assistance.

He explained to members that the main aim of the new restrictions was to reduce mobility and to reduce the level of congregation among the public in order to lower the opportunities for transmission of Covid-19.

Mr Murray said that since Friday January 8, all the local authority’s walk-in services are closed to members of the public, although services are still available via telephone, email or online or, where necessary, by appointment.

The libraries are open for online services only; Athlone Castle is closed and so is the Luan Gallery.

The road gritters will continue to operate as part of the winter road maintenance programme, but apart from that, only essential road repairs or maintenance will be undertaken; street sweeping levels are being reduced; and for the foreseeable future, Westmeath County Council will carry out no site works, apart from surveys to prepare for pavement contracts.

The snagging works on the N52 upgrade have been suspended until further notice, as has work on the national cycle network in Athlone from The White Gates to the marina.

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