Written answers

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht

National Parks Projects

Photo of Catherine MartinCatherine Martin (Dublin Rathdown, Green Party)
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360. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht her plans with respect to the creation of a Liffey valley national park; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [43927/19]

Photo of Josepha MadiganJosepha Madigan (Dublin Rathdown, Fine Gael)
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The National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department manages an extensive conservation and recreational property portfolio of some 87,000 hectares. Our 6 National Parks account for circa 65,000 hectares with another almost 22,000 hectares of nature reserves and other heritage sites. The existing National Parks are managed from a conservation perspective, and attract in excess of 4 million visitors annually.

Given the resources available for capital investment within our National Parks and Nature Reserves, I am ever mindful of the need to focus on the core responsibilities relating to the management of the existing Parks and Reserves lands and have no plans at present to increase the number of National Parks in the country.

However, as part of my Department’s continuing commitment and contribution to protecting our heritage and improving our tourism and recreation product, we have been exploring ways to optimise the sustainable potential of heritage sites under our control in a way that is compatible with conservation objectives.

In this context, it should be noted that in late 2016 my Department negotiated the extension of Wicklow Mountains National Park by purchasing almost 4,900 acres of Dublin Uplands at Glenasmole in 2016 at a cost of €800,000. The purchase underpins the Government’s on-going commitment to the preservation of our natural heritage for future generations of citizens and visitors alike to enjoy.

In 2017 the entire Wild Nephin area was consolidated into the ownership of the National Parks and Wildlife Service. This creates a State – Owned wilderness project of over 11,000 hectares and aims to provide increased nature conservation benefits and biodiversity as well as  enhanced recreational and social benefits through the ‘re-wilding’ of the forest which adjoins the National Park. Thanks to the acquisition, we will be returning the area to a natural wilderness state.

My Department, in conjunction with Fáilte Ireland, launched a strategic partnership in 2017 with a view to growing tourism revenues in the rural areas where the parks are located and increasing Ireland’s appeal as a recreation destination.  One of the outputs from the partnership with Fáilte was “Experiencing the Wild Heart of Ireland”; an interpretative masterplan for the development of our National Parks and Reserves, which was published last year and sets out a road map for investment at these important nature conservation, public amenity and tourism sites and underpins the objectives of Project 2040. 

The investment in our National Parks will create memorable and meaningful experiences of Ireland’s landscapes, wildlife and culture. This will be done though sensitive design and the development of authentic experiences, providing better access to nature and an increased understanding of society’s conservation responsibilities, as well as supporting significant investment in recreational facilities including upgrading and development of the trails network,increased visitor facilities and improved signage and branding. These will be designed and delivered with a strong emphasis on conservation and allow us protect and preserve our most fragile environments and investing in our culture, language & heritage provide a well-being benefit for all.

In this regard, a provision of some €5million in funding, for 32 individual projects across the network of NPWS sites, was announced earlier this year as part of the Rural Regeneration Development Fund. So while I have no plans to expand the Park network at present, my Department is actively ensuring the preservation, protection and presentation of the assets we already own.


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