Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Significant land acquisition for Wicklow Mountains National Park

Mr. John Gormley TD, Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government, today has announced a significant new land acquisition for Wicklow Mountains National Park.

It brings the total area of Wicklow Mountains National Park to some 20,483 hectares. This purchase substantially expands the size of the Wicklow Mountains National Park on its western boundary, adjacent to the Wicklow gap mountain lands on either side of the Laragh Hollywood Road (R756).

The acquisition consolidates existing public access to the area - which, in the context of the expansion of Dublin, will enable the National Park to remain a most valuable resource on the Capital’s doorstep.

The Minister, who has overseen a period of sustained investment in nature conservation since coming to office, said that the area in question is 2,833 hectares (7,100 acres) and equates to some four times the size of the Phoenix Park in Dublin - making it one of the most important acquisitions by the National Parks and Wildlife Service in recent times.

“This addition to the National Park will serve to support nature conservation in an area which continues to attract huge volumes of visitors. Furthermore, it shows the Government’s commitment to investing in sustainable eco-tourism, which is a vital component in promoting our economic fortunes.”

The area, being part of the Wicklow Mountains area, is very popular with hill walkers, day-trippers and picnic-goers. It includes - or has access to - mountains such as Mullaghcleevaun, Moanbane and Table Mountain. The land is a Special Area of Conservation (protected by EU Habitats Regulations) and is designated as an area of Outstanding Natural Beauty by Wicklow County Council. The lands are of a high conservation quality and contain a mixture of Blanket Bog, Wet Heath and Dry Heath habitats. They are also important for many bird species - including Merlin and Red Grouse.

The Minister added - “in these tough economic times, more and more people are turning to inexpensive outdoor recreational activities and this acquisition provides further opportunity for such healthy pursuits. Our national parks are also a great tourist attraction and, in these difficult times, we must all do our bit to encourage that all-important tourist spend.”

Minister Gormley also mentioned the potential of the Red Kite project to attract tourists to the Wicklow area. “It is a well known fact that people will travel from afar to try and catch a glimpse of these magnificent birds. In Scotland, Sea Eagles attract thousands of visitors and have been shown to be worth up to €3 million annually. Eco-tourism is the way forward and all we need do is make these areas exciting and vibrant areas to visit.”

In conclusion, the Minister expressed his thanks and appreciation to all those involved in bringing this initiative to a successful conclusion - and, in particular, the vendor - Lord Waterford - for having the vision to give the State first option on the disposal of these important lands.

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