Blooming marvellous is the verdict on plans to transform a derelict area of parkland in the heart of Falkirk.
The ambitious project to redevelop the Walled Garden within Dollar Park is unveiled this week.
In a unique partnership, convicted criminals will work with dementia sufferers and outdoor enthusiasts to turn the rundown space into a community beauty spot.
Falkirk Council’s criminal justice service has created the masterplan along with the Friends of Dollar Park and the Joint Dementia Initiative which is based in buildings next to historic Arnotdale House in the centre of the grounds.
A report states: “Together, we are uniquely placed to deliver this project with a strong guaranteed workforce of both skilled and unskilled labour at no expense to the project budget.”
News of the plan comes as Falkirk Council reveals it is spending £270,000 carrying out much-needed repairs to the house in the hope of marketing it for a commercial tenant.
Arnotdale and Dollar Park were gifted to the people of Falkirk in 1921 by Robert Dollar. The Grahamston-born philanthropist made his fortune in the shipping and timber trade in America, but never forgot his roots and became a generous benefactor to the town.
Now the community is being urged to get behind the proposed environment and health project.
Falkirk’s First Citizen, Provost Pat Reid, said: “Everyone who is on board is very excited about it and hopefully, it will inspire the entire community.
“Dollar Park has always been symbolic at the heart of the community and was very much the people’s park. Callendar Park was private grounds for a very long time and Dollar Park was the place where families would head.
‘‘However, that changed in recent times and Callendar Park became the focal point for many.”
The provost said he was hopeful that once complete, the enhanced garden area would prove to be a popular visitor attraction and “another piece in the district’s tourist jigsaw”.
Designs for the Walled Garden include interactive areas for parents and children, a tactile sculpture (sensory) garden, specially designed planters for those with limited mobility, an orchard, vegetable plots, a water feature, garden chess, a gazebo for community events, a picnic area, a ‘pineapple pit’, propagation areas, and education areas for workshops.
It will also be a priority to have it accessible for wheelchair users and buggies.
The gardens could also provide a community venue for events year-round, including a ‘Winter Wonderland’ with Santa’s grotto, Harvest Festival, Summer Gala, treasure hunts and outdoor performance/exhibition space.
Much of the project is the brainchild of Louisa Glowacki from the criminal justice social work service (CJS). The department manages offenders who are ordered to carry out unpaid work in the community as part of their sentence.
In the last few years, they have become involved in projects to clear up the garden area with the possibility of it being developed in the future.
The proposed business case notes: “Falkirk CJS aims to create a unique and vibrant garden that offers participants numerous learning opportunities and interactivity and provides year-round interest for visitors. We hope to encourage community groups and members of the public to engage with their environment, learn and promote better health.”
A bid for cash to carry out the project will be submitted to Falkirk Environment Trust.
The cost is in the region of £30,000 which will cover materials, while labour costs – anticipated to be around £100,000 – will be provided free of charge through the community service workers.
The Joint Dementia Initiative is keen to come on board to have a therapeutic space that is relatively enclosed, safe and easily accessible which would provide horticulture activities to stimulate its service users.
Chris Morris, chairperson of the Friends of Dollar Park, said the project, as well as being an additional asset for the parkland, could provide another much-needed resource for the area – toilets.