An official ceremony was held to mark the work that has been carried out, to date, on three kilometres of upland path which leads from the car park to the summit of Errigal, last Friday.
Work commenced on the path in April. The Director of Community Development and Planning Services with Donegal County Council (DCC), Mr Liam Ward ‘Restored the Sod’ on Errigal, marking an important milestone in the ‘Sustainable Access and Restoration Project’ currently underway on the mountain.
As its popularity has grown over the years, a key challenge for Errigal has been unmanaged access to its summit and associated upland areas which, in combination with natural erosion, has resulted in severe damage and degradation of the natural resource, and the loss of important habitat.
The ‘Sustainable Access and Restoration Project’ funded by the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme and managed by DCC involves the upgrading of a 3km upland path which leads from the existing car park to the summit of the mountain, and re-vegetation of the eroded and damaged ground.
Welcoming the progress of the project on site, Mr Liam Ward, the Director of Community Development and Planning Services with DCC said: “It's great to see the progress that has been done by the contractors Mc Gowan Environmental Engineering Ltd since the work commenced in April.
"Donegal County Council are delighted to be involved in this project to protect this iconic landmark and we would like to thank the local community for instigating the project and the landowners on the mountain for giving permission for it to progress.
Chairperson of the local development committee, Forbairt Dhún Lúiche, Paul Roarty, said:"This restoring of the sod event marks a very important day in what has been a long journey. As more and more people are drawn to its slopes and the panoramic views from the summit, erosion has become a serious problem on the mountain. Errigal is very important to Dunlewey and the local area, it brings a lot of people to the area every year and it is important for us to get a balance between protecting the mountain and creating employment opportunities."
Mr Roarty said the first meeting was held with DCC in 2011 as the local community were seeing that there were problems with the increased numbers of people climbing the mountain.
The Errigal Stakeholder Group was then established in 2012 to allow all interested parties to discuss and agree a method to develop Errigal and the Dunlewey area in a way that would deliver community benefits and address the environmental damage that was being done due to unregulated access to the mountain.
The Errigal Stakeholders include Donegal County Council, Údarás na Gaeltachta, Mountaineering Ireland, An Taisce, DLDC, Fáilte Ireland, Gartan Adventure, National Parks and Wildlife Service, ESB, Coillte and Forbairt Dhún Lúiche. One of the key goals was to develop a management plan to develop a sustainable solution for the future management of Errigal Mountain.
The agreed and shared vision of the Errigal Stakeholders Group is: ‘To facilitate the responsible enjoyment of Errigal in a way that protects its special qualities and benefits the local community’
‘The Integrated Management Plan for Errigal’ that was developed during the ASCENT project has three key strategies: to restore and protect: maintain the ecological integrity of the mountain; resource and equip: achieve success through continued partnership working and collaborating and sustain and grow: realise Dunlewey’s ambition to become a visitor hub and gateway to Errigal.
A key consideration during the preparation of the management plan was the need to define a formal management structure for the Errigal Stakeholders to enable them to co-ordinate the delivery of actions. A Company Limited by Guarantee (CLG), called “Cairde na hEaragaile” has now been established and will comprise representatives from the original stakeholder group, the local community and the landowners on the route of the path on Errigal.
A member of Mountaineering Ireland and Cairde na hEaragaile, Ursula MacPherson said: “This path work and habitat conservation project is being undertaken to restore the natural habitat on Errigal and to protect the landscape from further damage and erosion. We ask the public to play their part by staying on the path in ascent and descent.”
A new website www.errigalmountain.com has been developed to provide information on the mountain, where to stay and things to do in the Dunlewey area.
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