Glendalough is one of the most important monastic sites in Ireland with a rich and fascinating history
and a wide range of biodiversity that attracts many tourists and recreational visitors. These benefits
also present challenges which we must work collaboratively to overcome.
The Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains National Park Visitor Experience Management and
Masterplan has been developed in collaboration with Coillte, Fáilte Ireland, National Monuments
Service, National Parks, Office of Public Works and Wicklow County Council. The plan will cover a
seven to ten year period and provide a phased road map to protect and enhance Glendalough, the
Wicklow Mountains National Park and the surrounding areas.
The central challenge for the Visitor Experience Management and Masterplan is how to balance the
ever-increasing desire for people to visit and experience Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains
National Park, with the overriding importance of protecting and conserving those values which give
the area its significance.
Today, I had the oppertunity to pay tribute to all of the agencies involved in the development of this master plan as well as the local community interest groups for their contribution to the plan which will provide guidance for the future development within the Wicklow Mountains National Park, ensuring sustainable tourism within the Park and wider area.
The local people who live and work in the area experience on a daily basis the benefits and challenges of life beside one of Ireland’s most famous landmarks. They have been at the heart of this process and played a central role in framing the masterplan and ensuring that all aspects of the Glendalough community were considered. I was delighted to see many at the launch today including members of my own family.
Now the focus moves to implementing the recommendations contained within that plan.
So how will this be achieved?
In order to achieve this the Glendalough Partnership has been established comprising of representatives from all key stakeholders - Coillte, Fáilte Ireland, National Monuments Service, National Parks, Office of Public Works and Wicklow County Council. A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by all parties.
The Partnership will consider how best to implement the Masterplan focussing on three central actions:
To enhance the natural, built and cultural heritage
To disperse the benefits and impacts of tourism
To improve the visitor experience
Additional Committee structures have been put in place.
A high level steering group is in place
A working Group has been established
And a local advisory Group will be established - in respect of which Terms of Reference are being prepared by the Working Group.
The Working group will work closely with the Local Advisory Group as set out in the Memorandum of Understanding where mechanisms will be put in place so that community input can be made. Community consultation and participation is a central tenant of the Master Plan. The Partnership will endeavour to keep the local community informed through appropriate communication channels. As I said, work will commence to set up the Local Community Advisory Group.
Membership of the this Advisory group will again comprise of key stakeholder representatives from Wicklow County Council, Coilte DAC, National Parks and Wildlife Services, Office of Public Works, The National Monuments Services, Failte Ireland, and importantly representatives from the Local Community Groups who have a knowledge and understanding of the issues raised during the consultation process and the objectives of the Master Plan.
There will be a communication structure put in place whereby feedback and findings can be discussed at Steering Group Level.
This is the first time all of the agencies operating within this area have formally joined to work collaboratively towards the enhancement of Glendalough, improving the visitor experience and encouraging visitors to explore
neighbouring areas of County Wicklow. To date all agencies had acknowledged each other but generally worked on their own areas of responsability. For visitors coming to the area, for example it wouldl have been unlcear that Wicklow County Council manage the car park, Coillte the forest and the OPW the visitors center. The new approach is significant and provides a new way of working for all involved.
The Glendalough Partnership will be the instrument to co-ordinate, develop, promote and protect everything that makes the Glendalough and Wicklow Mountains National Park environment such a special and invaluable asset.
I very much look forward to seeing the Masterplan actions brought to reality and the protection of this wonderful space for generations to come.