The lakeside village of Ballina is hoping its latest tourist attraction will give it another platform to entice visitors to the area.
The Ballina Tidy Town cantilever viewing platform at Main Street overlooking the Lower Shannon and Lower Lough Derg was officially opened last week by Minister for the Environment Alan Kelly and Junior Minister for Agriculture Tom Hayes.
The €200,000 project is one of the final such projects to be launched by the outgoing LEADER Programme. The project promoters were Ballina Tidy Towns and the works included pavement upgrading and widening, installation of street furniture, and the signature feature the viewing platform.
Cllr Phyll Bugler, who is also a member of Ballina Tidy Towns, said that the group had a long, proud history of supporting the enhancement of the lakeside village.
“We are continually seeking out new opportunities to enhance the economic and social attractiveness of our village. One such opportunity was the need to enhance the main street and install a viewing platform to maximise the beautiful vistas of the Lough Derg and the Lower Shannon. A major upgrade and widening of the footpath has been completed along with the installation of new street furniture, and, of course, of new signature landmark viewing platform,” she said.
The FG councillor said this was a wonderful example of joint partnership between a voluntary group, North Tipperary Leader Partnership under the outgoing Leader Programme, and Tipperary County Council.
Nenagh Municipal District Council Cathaoirleach, Cllr Ger Darcy described the platform as a “fantastic resource. Ballina is the envy of every community in Tipperary with the beautiful setting here on the southern tip of Lough Derg and the Lower Shannon.”
Cllr Darcy pointed out that over the past five years, the Leader programme had invested over €833,000 into 17 projects in Ballina and other communities along the Tipperary side of the lake. These grants have included tourism accommodation, recreational activities, walks and environmental enhancement as well as business supports.
This cantilever viewing platform was designed by Nicholas de Jong Associates, landscape architect and urban designer from Limerick. He was supported by specialist structural engineer Michael O’Shea of O’Shea Consulting Engineers, Limerick.
From the beginning, the importance of using local expertise was stressed, and the construction contract was undertaken by Dave Fitzgerald Contracts of Carrigatoher, Nenagh. Fabrication of the steelwork was completed by Danny Ryan of Ballina Engineering and the stonework by Martin Ryan Stoneworks, Ballina.
The platform weighs five tonnes and overhangs the riverbank by 3.5 metres and is elevated about 8m above it. This needed to be supported by four tonnes of steel on 10 foundation piles, each 10m long, drilled down through 9m of soil into the sandstone rock below the level of the river bed.
The deck is capable of supporting about 10 tonnes - equivalent to more than 100 people.