Speaking in Roundwood, Co. Wicklow at a celebratory rally on the Upper Vartry Reservoir Trail the Chair of Keep Ireland Open Robert Dowds congratulated all who helped get the full circular trail of the upper reservoir reopened after many months of closure. It’s a fine achievement but, given all the public money which was spent on this beautiful trail, it never should have been blocked.
The blockage on this trail is an example as to why robust legislation is required to prevent quickly erected barriers such as this preventing access to walkers and other recreational users. What happened at the Vartry Reservoir is small beer to the problems experienced in other parts of the country. For example, access for walkers to Fenit Island near Tralee in Co. Kerry has been blocked for over 15 years. Even though a District Court Order early this year demanded that the fences blocking access be removed they are still in place and the battle there continues. Closer to Roundwood, access to the traditional path to the Wicklow Head Lighthouse has been blocked with no sign of any change on that front. It is our contention that the absence of robust legislation makes county councils reluctant to challenge blockages on traditional pathways.
In addition to this issue, Ireland needs legislation so that government and county councils can confidently invest in creating and maintaining rights of access to the countryside, to mountains, rivers, lakes and the shoreline. This is normal practice in both the UK and a great number of continental countries. Currently access to most countryside places in Ireland is voluntary which means it can be withdrawn. This is true on some greenways and in many mountainous areas.
Since the Covid epidemic people realise more than ever the benefits of getting out into the country for both their physical and mental wellbeing. Coupled with that, the advent of greenways demonstrates the positive economic benefit of more people visiting our beautiful rural landscape whether they be residents of Ireland or visitors to our shores. As has been demonstrated in other countries, it is perfectly possible for people to access the countryside in a responsible way while not impacting negatively on the farming community.
Ends. 22nd October, 2022.
Robert Dowds, Chairperson, Keep Ireland Open
Tel. 087-6520360 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.