Bord na Móna mechanised peat harvesting in the middle of the twentieth century and at its peak Boora bog supplied over 1 million tonnes of peat every year, helping power Ireland’s industries and homes.
In 1994, a project was initiated by Bord na Móna local management and a group of local workers and people active in the local community produced a plan to make use of the post-industrial landscape in Boora. Their vision was to create a vast, open and unencumbered landscape that would enhance the quality of life for the local communities through its new amenities in the area and its ability to attract visitors from Ireland and overseas.
Bord na Móna has funded this development, while also receiving co-funding from European Structural Funds at the early stages of the project. Subsequent funding has been granted from national and local development agencies and the local authority, Offaly County Council. Most recently, Failte Ireland co-funded the building of the new visitor centre.
Lough Boora Sculpture Park was initiated in 2002 and this 40 hectare park area is now home to 24 large outdoor sculpture pieces for visitors to experience and enjoy. The sculptures in the park were made with the concept of relating to the heritage of the area with the materials being sourced and made from the natural resources of the area, such as stone, relic bog timbers, peat and earth. They also relate to the industrial heritage of the peat industry in that they use defunct machinery as well as railway track and railway sleepers.
The Sculpture Park is littered with beautiful, innovative pieces of art that dramatically change the landscape with varying contrast depending on the weather, throughout the seasons and over time. Through the effects of nature, the sculptures have altered in colour and developed wonderful colonies of plant growth, enabling them to become part of the landscape once again.
The opening of a new visitor centre in 2014 gave a fresh sense of arrival to the park – an entry point for exploration, wonder and discovery of this vast eco-amenity. At the heart of the design approach for the new visitor centre was innovation and empathy to the surrounding environment.
Inside the visitor centre sits the reception area, toilets, and a café with both indoor and outdoor seating. Outside there is a timber deck area with seating and shelter, overlooking one of the lakes, Loch an Dochas. The building, car park, picnic and recreation areas incorporate wheelchair accessibility at the centre of their design.