Council support for open water swimming in the city

Participants in a Swimmable Limerick outing on the River Shannon.

OPEN water swimmers, who want to swim in the Shannon in the city centre could soon have their wish, as the local authority is to consider designating part of the river as a bathing area.

Members of the council’s Community Leisure and Emergency Services committee this week heard a presentation from one of the organisers of Swimmable Limerick, a group which arranges regular swims in the Shannon and whose membership is growing steadily.

Elisa O’Donovan said that regular swims were organised over the summer and during Riverfest and places were snapped up in under two days.

“We have a Samhain swim planned, with candles and glow sticks to light the river and all places were booked out on the day we announced it,” she said.

“Open water swimming in the urban environment is a unique experience and this healthy and sociable activity brings health benefits. I have been flu and cold free since I started swimming in the river and it is extremely beneficial for mental health.

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“In terms of facilities, open water swimmers don’t need a lot. We need to know the water quality is okay to swim in and to be able to get in and out easily. To have changing facilities would be just amazing. This is something unique to Limerick. Where else can you swim beside a medieval castle?” she asked.

The presentation coincided with a report on providing public swimming facilities for Limerick city and county.

Director Of Services Gordon Daly outlined how a feasibility study last year on a proposal to provide a new swimming pool in Newcastle West had determined that any such facility should only be provided in the context of an overall strategy for public swimming facilities.

Designating a bathing area could also be part of such a strategy he said.

“Initial costs would not be prohibitive and would centre on water testing with a plan to perhaps station a lifeguard at the bathing spot in summer. Such measures need not wait for an overall strategy”, he said.

Newcastle West councillor, Michael Collins (FF) said that as the county town it should have a swimming pool and he welcomed the call for a designated bathing area.

“People like to see the river used as an amenity. It gets publicity for all the wrong reasons,” he said.

Independent councillor, Lisa Marie Sheehy said that she had recently experienced seeing Limerick from the water for the first time when she took a kayak out.

‘It was a very emotional experience seeing the city from the river, which has been associated with such pain and loss. We need to support this,” she added.

Cllr Cian Prendiville (Sol) said that the council officials should come back with a concrete proposal.

“We could take the initial steps of water testing and providing a lifeguard. The provision of changing facilities and an actual bath further down the road would be amazing,” he said.