A new masterplan to highlight the beauty and history of Ireland's National Parks and Reserves was launched by Josepha Madigan, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht in Coole Park last Monday.
It will be a phased development over a number of years, backed jointly by the Department of Culture, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht and by Failte Ireland which see the plan as 'unleashing the full potential of our national parks' for the benefit of all. Primarily aimed to attract visitors in from the popular Wild Atlantic Way, the government, local groups, and local authorities are anxious that visitors should see and enjoy the cultural inheritance, and the natural beauty of the Irish rural landscape as well as the wild ocean along our western shore.
Local highlights include a contemporary reimagining of Coole Park House. While respecting the unique natural environment of the Coole Garryland Nature Reserve, it has been recognised for some time that the literary importance of Coole, and the dynamic personality of Lady Augusta Gregory should be properly highlighted. A rebuilding of the house may be on the cards, at least its facade; while its interior could include performance and exhibition spaces, archival and interpretative facilities, meeting rooms and facilities for students.
The Connemara National Park will be upgraded to include better family facilities, trails and interconnecting ways to the Ballycroy National Park, in north west Mayo. Orla Carroll, Failte Ireland, said that Ireland had done 'a first class job in maintaining these natural assets, but we do not want them to be the best kept secrets in the world.'
Minister Madigan said that the network of our national parks were undoubtedly some of the most beautiful places in the world. 'They truely are the Wild Heart of Ireland'. The plan she said, stressed the conservation and educational responsibilities. 'We can balance conservation and biodiversity with increasing visitor numbers.'
Minister of state for Tourism, Brenden Griffin, praised the continued investment in walking/hiking infrastructure and educational facilities. 'These investments preserve our natural environment, improve health, wellbeing and supported the local economy.'