The Dodder Gathering 2017 – inspiring a positive future by connecting people and nature
Dublin City Council’s Parks and Landscape Services and its Water Framework Directive Office along with the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office and Dodder Action hosted the three-day Inaugural Dodder Gathering in March/April 2017 at the Hive in Herbert Park, which was attended by approximately 400 people. The event opened for schools on Friday 31st March for an education day. This was followed by a networking summit for local community groups and businesses from source to sea on the river on the Saturday morning, with interactive displays on wildlife in the afternoon. Sunday was dedicated to family fun where people could enjoy the amenities and wildlife along the River Dodder.
What inspired the Dodder Gathering?
The Dodder Gathering 2017 was initiated through a request by Dodder Action to understand the current practices and policy effecting the management of the River Dodder. This event coincided with the implementation of Dublin City’s Biodiversity Action Plan. The event provided a platform for submissions for the draft River Basin Management Plan and increased awareness and education regarding river water quality. The lower reaches of the Dodder are situated in the UNESCO Dublin Bay Biosphere which aims to manage areas of outstanding biodiversity by promoting a balanced relationship between people and nature.
Eight schools sent students to the educational day from their green school committees and environmental forums. In the morning, primary school students visited a range of learning stations depicting the water cycle, the use of macroinvertebrates (insects) from river water to identify water quality, homes as sources of everyday river pollution, the Dodder’s Biodiversity and the “Web of Life”. Experts from Dublin City Council’s Biodiversity, Water Framework Directive, Pollution Control and Central Laboratory Office along with Dodder Action, An Taisce Green Schools and the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office, interacted with small groups doing demonstrations, quizzes and experiments. After this the children went for a walk examining the wildlife in the park with OWLS the Children’s Nature Charity. In remembrance of the first Dodder Gathering they planted a Strawberry Tree (Arbutus unedo), which will now form part of the Park’s Tree Trail. In September after completing some take home activities, the primary school pupils were awarded Dodder Defender Certificates, at a formal presentation in Civic Offices, by Councillor Patrick Costello, who was deputising for the Lord Mayor, in recognition of their promise to be defenders of the River Dodder and their commitment to inform their peers of the amenity and biodiversity of the river.
In the afternoon, secondary school students visited similar interactive displays, with the addition of John Staunton, Dodder Action, giving a riveting photographic account of his life experience and history of the river. They undertook a “Bioblitz challenge” competing against each other in a timed countdown to identify the greatest variety of trees, birds, macroinvertebrates and threats to Biodiversity in the Park. They also took a water sample from the River Dodder which was sent to the Central Laboratory for testing. The results of the water testing were forwarded to the schools after the event. All schools were given supportive educational packs relating to submissions for An Gáisce, Young Scientists Exhibition and EcoUNESCO Young Environmentalist Awards.
Taking action for the Dodder together
On the Saturday morning, a networking summit was held for representatives from local community groups from source to sea on the Dodder. This summit consisted of presentations from Dublin City Council on topics ranging from the water quality, flood defences, landscape management of Herbert Park and litter prevention. South Dublin County Council demonstrated the high nature value areas of the Dodder Linear Park and Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council spoke on how polluting household water can be misconnected to the river. The value of angling to the river was encouraged by Inland Fisheries Ireland. The Environmental Protection Agency spoke on Citizen Science and the National Parks and Wildlife Service clarified their role, responsibilities and wildlife legislation. The Waters and Communities Office gave a talk on the value of community participation in relation to water protection and management.
After the information session, participants gathered to discuss the river, what it means to them, what concerns they had and what actions needed to be carried out to promote and protect the river. The discussion was held in an informal café style session using maps of the river which allowed people to foster new relations and establish their role as custodians of the catchment.
In the afternoon, there were interactive displays on wildlife, the wonders of water and river stories. The Herpetological Society of Ireland brought a Mexican Salamander or Axolotl which fascinated the children. BirdWatch Ireland showcased their bird tracker and INVAS Biosecurity were on hand to show specimens of invasive species that can damage our waterways and how they can be prevented and controlled. An Taisce Clean Coasts were promoting their #2MinuteBeachClean and their Think Before You Flush campaigns. Coastwatch Ireland had an array of beach shells on display and they talked about marine litter, marine conservation and successfully enlisted volunteers for their annual coast watch survey. The Irish Wildlife Trust had animal artefacts on display which were there to discuss conservation of our wildlife and habitats. The Dublin City Councils Biodiversity/Biosphere road show highlighted where to see nature in the City.
Celebrating a river
The family fun day on the Sunday proved to be a great success with a large number of people coming out to enjoy the activities. The morning started with pond dipping led by OWLS which attracted children of all ages. People then returned to the Hive, where there was face painting, wildlife displays, river insects identification demonstrating the good water quality status of the Dodder, fly casting demonstrations and angling lessons.
The historic and wildlife walk topics ranged from fishy stories by the Dodder Anglers, to an informative native Irish tree trail walk by Dublin City Council Parks. Local historian Don McEntee enthused the audience with an illustrated history of the industrial heritage of the river. Staff from the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office encouraged people to have their voices heard in the management of their river by submitting their views on the draft River Basin Management Plan.
This three-day inaugural Dodder Gathering is the start of a collective and collaborative management approach between communities and agencies in the management of the River Dodder. Together we aim to inspire a positive future by connecting people and nature together.
The organisers of the Dodder Gathering would like to thank all the community groups who attended, speakers, local authority staff, state bodies, Non-Governmental Organisations and businesses who helped to make the Dodder Gathering an overwhelming success. Thanks also to the people who came out in such numbers to the event. Finally, a special mention for the inspiring students from Rathfarnham Educate Together National School, Scoil Naomh Pádraig, Ballyroan, St Patrick’s Boys National School, Ringsend, St Killian’s Deutsche Schule, Alexandra College Dublin, High School Rathgar, St Mac Dara’s Community College Templeogue and Colaiste Íosagáin who demonstrated that they will defend the river for future generations using their love of science, culture and environmental action.