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Roundwood, a home at last
The story of Roundwood has its roots right back to the formation of the team, or probably even our An Oige heritage. From the moment the team got its first piece of equipment the question must have been asked, where will we put it? Cheeverstown, Oakwood, IMC Hut, Blessington, Larch Hill, Large back gardens, Equipment Officers Sheds? These are just some of the places that have been muted or used as potential team bases and equipment stores over the years.
Some of you will remember the Teams first vehicles or those cold weather Team Woolly jumpers, I don’t, and I’ve only seen the pictures. As the last 25 Years have rolled by the team has gathered more and more equipment getting evermore sophisticated and the burden on Equipment Officers gets greater by the year. Where will we keep the spare GPS radios or the Laptop? This was not a question for 1984…… But where will we dry the ropes and casualty wraps probably was. So the need for a base was always there.
Every committee over the years has investigated all sorts of leads that may have led to the answer to the question of where will we put it? I became involved in the Team base hunt back in 2004 when the committee at the time had a hint that the IMC may be willing to give the team space in their Hut in Glendassan or even the whole hut. Kenny Roberts and I met with the IMC´s Hut Warden who was very interested in the idea. For years the Hut had been neglected, used and abused by the IMC’s membership and had become a problem for their committee. Added to this it needed a lot of investment to make it “liveable”, so an option for them was to lease it to the Team. For the Team this was the Golden Ticket we’d always sought. A ready made property in our prime response area, with parking, large enough to hold indoor training sessions, store gear, vehicles and bunk team members. Surveys were made, plans were drafted, budgets developed and we had an air of excitement about a potential base we had not had for a while. The stickler in the whole scenario was it would need the approval of the IMC’s membership. Another potential gone. The IMC’s membership quite rightly voted to hold onto their prime asset. But for us the hunt for a home had been re-ignited.
The next main lead I became involved with came from a scouting direction. The Teams links with Scouting are excellent with a large number of our past and present team members learning their early hill skills wearing a neckerchief & woggle. On a team level this can be seen with our strong friendship in Larch Hill. Having access to Larch Hill for running courses and evening training sessions has been invaluable. The other Scouting location well used over the years is Oakwood. Oakwood is not directly owned by Scouting Ireland but on a long term lease from Coillte. Soon after the IMC Hut fell by the way side the team got wind that SCI were looking to step back from their lease in Oakwood. Once again the team felt it had the opportunity to acquire a property in that it met with all the criteria of the IMC hut but bigger. After quickly chasing down the Property Manager in Coillte a meeting was arranged. Unfortunately, we may have been a touch to quick. The news that the Scouts may be stepping back from their lease was news to Coillte. However, they did agree that should it become available, DWMRT would be the first people they would call for a possible peppercorn rent of the property.
The hunt was on again.
In late summer 2006 the first glimmer of hope arrived again. David Butler and his wife Claire had not long moved into their newly refurbished home in Old Bridge. At the same time they had thrown themselves actively into the local community life, joining the First Responder scheme for the area. Through links in this David became aware of some under used garage and storage space adjacent to Roundwood Garda Station. The station, like most rural stations it is part time station and has adjacent living accommodation for the local sergeant. The space David had spotted was filled with abandoned bikes, road signs, rubbish, the sergeants wood pile and lots more besides. The potential may have been difficult for some to see, never the less it did offer a potential.
Taking space in Garda stations, may seem like a simple straight forward option. They are our tasking agency. It would help develop closer ties between both agencies.Some stations are located in Mountain Rescue Teams operational areas and provide good communication links. Behind the scenes lies a more intricate story. Experience of something similar to our intentions had been seen by Kerry MRT. For sometime now the Kerry team had been co-located in Killarney Garda Station. So a call was put into Kerry MRT. Their experience was very valuable at the outset on who to approach and how to approach them. In negotiating to get the space we would have to please a number of people. The person most affected by any change in usage, the local Sergeant, would have to agree, the local Garda Superintendent would also need to sign off, but by far the most difficult to reach would be the Office of Public Works. Like all State property, Garda accommodation is managed not by the occupying body but by the OPW.
David and I agreed we needed to start at the local level and work up, so David arranged a meeting for him and me with the Local Sergeant, Pat Stapleton, to talk through our hopes & dreams for the space. From our first meeting with Pat we received his full support; Pat also agreed to discuss the proposal with the local Inspector and Superintendant. David also approached the Superintendant and once again as with Pat, his support was immediate. From here forward we would have to become much more formal in our steps, so a written proposal was drafted for issue to all concerned.
As with all these things getting it to the right desk can be make or break. Lisa O’Brien’s father, a recent retiree from the Civil Service, provided the name to whom we should direct the proposal to in the OPW.
Put it in writing
The proposal was issued in Jan 07 and in our naivety we hoped for a reply by the summer of that year. For those of us in the Private Sector we all too often underestimate the size, number of departments, protocols and timing required for the Public Sector to operate, and of this I was truly guilty.
Very soon after submitting the proposal to the OPW & An Garda Siochana we heard it had been sent from the OPW to Garda HQ, in the Phoenix Park, for approval who had passed it onto Wicklow, who stamped their approval on it and sent it back to Phoenix Park, who in turn gave their approval and issued it back to the OPW. Fantastic we’re home and dry, or so we thought………
A Waiting Game
It was fron then on we realised we needed to employ the other main piece of advice received from Kerry MRT, patience.
Tracking the progress of our proposal provided a weekly amusement and frustration for me for the next seven months. A series of maternity leaves, sick leaves and departmental power swaps had to be overcome along the way. It must also be noted that our proposal, although of huge importance to DWMRT, ranked rather low on the radar of a department whose role it is to review all state property and make a commercial decision on what is the best use of the property in the interests of the state. Possibly the last thing the department needed was their weekly call from the bolshie northern guy from Mountain Rescue. Thankfully for us it worked.
In November 08 I received the call we’d all been waiting for: the OPW and An Garda Siochana had reached internal approval to our proposal. The matter was now in the hands of the Chief States Solicitors Office.
The Chief States Solicitors office had only 2 main concerns
With a call to the bank for a statement and a call to IMRA for a copy of our Insurance policy, wording to be slightly amended and issued, we had a deal.
Only now could the clean out and fit-out works commence, some 15 Months after David and I met Pat.
John O’Brien provided fit-out drawings, Team members spent a day filling skips, two of Irelands largest Construction Contractors, John Sisk and Sons & Mercury Engineering were canvassed to provide support for the fit-out, which was readily given.
The Team also provided a budget for fit-out to include secure caging, work benches and dry lining.
Throughout the whole period of seeking Roundwood, friends and family members contacts and skills had been called upon to assist in making it a reality. It was fitting then that the final works were once again provided by friends and family in the shape of Gen and Mels father, a painter, who gave his time to paint out the Teams First and long sought after home.
We have now been in Roundwood over a year and it has proved to be well worth the pain it took to get there. A home for the Landrover, which with local team members, provides a speedy response. A home for spare equipment, where it can be accessed 24/7 by team members, a drying space for wet equipment, a place for the team to call home.
As with all things in life, Roundwood doesn’t provide for every want. Limited by its size there are no permanent operationss room where large operations might be run from, no training room where we can undertake indoor training and no covered parking area to increase the life of the vehicles. We are therefore reviewing options on how these might be achieved, but for now we have a place to call home, or a base or a post………
Deputy Team Leader
Dublin & Wicklow Mountain Team.