Wicklow Uplands Council, hosted the ‘Shaping The Wicklow Uplands’ panel meeting to a full audience in Tinahely’s Courthouse Arts Centre recently. Designed to provide an opportunity for networking and discussion amongst the tourism, community, recreation and farming sectors, the event proved to be very popular with people traveling from far afield to attend.
The evening began with Tinahely resident, John Mullen delivering an interesting account of the development of the numerous Tinahely Trails and looped walks and the recent introduction of a full pocket guide and downloadable maps of all of the routes.
John detailed how the walks are proving to be extremely popular with visitors of all levels of experience, who attracted to the area due to the choice of lengths and gradients and the hospitality found in South Wicklow.
The centrepiece of the evening was the gathering of the four panel groups to discuss projects underway, the various issues affecting their sector and to share suggestions on how best to resolve any challenges found.
The key focus of both the Community Panel Economic and Tourism Panel was the development of tourism across the upland region; with a unanimous agreement that that it’s landscape was a national asset.
Car parking and the development of a park and ride system proved to be one of the key areas discussed with the farming panel sharing that most private landowners would welcome the opportunity for their land to be used for such a scheme, although the issue of personal liability would need to be considered.
It was agreed that public transport is an essential component to further developing the tourism infrastructure throughout the region, in particular the south of the county that is underutilised compared to popular spots such as Glendalough and Glenmalure.
As the use of the upland road network is at its peak in the summer time, it was suggested that with incentives, the school buses in the region may provide a starting point to establish an extensive seasonal bus service and a coordinated park and ride system, especially in Glendalough, Roundwood and Luggala where thoroughfare challenges are often experienced.
Addressing the question of suitable accommodation for visitors, Tom Byrne of the Wicklow’s Irish Farmers Association stated,
“The lack of accommodation for visitors to County Wicklow, could easily be supported with more bed & breakfast and farmstay options, with the upland region being able to offer a unique setting and an experience that could be marketed international”
“Improved communication with Wicklow County Council and the streamlining of the planning process and Leader funding applications would make this an attractive possibility and assist hugely in adding to the economy across the upland communities”
The Environmental and Recreational Panel concluded that the soil composition of the upland region is unique to Ireland and the United Kingdom due to the moist weather conditions.
According to Mountaineering Ireland’s representative, Jim Sheehan
“Due to the environmental sensitivity, some of the routes and paths used by the region’s visitors may be getting excessively damaged in some places and the need for a better understanding of their conditions and the development of sustainable practices should be considered “
Speaking after the event, Brian Dunne, Coordinator for Wicklow Uplands Council shared
“This is an issue we have been aware of for some time and it is hoped that we will soon conduit a full survey in partnership with Mountaineering Ireland, on the paths and routes in higher regions. Once completed, we believe the recommendations and any work undertaken, will ensure that hill walkers and trekkers will continue to enjoy County Wicklow’s many paths and routes in a safer and less impactful way”
On-going challenges with dog control, concerns related to rural crime and the recent winter weather were also discussed, with appreciation to the many farmers involved in road clearance operations and the community response to the severe weather, singled out for warm praise.