Spring Newsletter '21
Courtown Community Council has been busy working behind the scenes over the past 12 months to lay foundations for sustainable growth within the community and its environs. We pride ourselves on working close to nature to provide our community with invaluable amenities and opportunities to be immersed in the natural and cultural resources in this beautiful area. We are grateful for your continued support of our work in the community. Please have a read through the following assortment of some projects we have been working on.
New Walking Trail
Courtown - Kiltennel Walking Trail 2.5km: CCC has worked closely with Wexford Walking Trail (WWT) and National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) to advise on the route, construction and maintenance of the new mixed woodland coastal walkway. The Trail extends the already magnificent network of walking trails throughout the Courtown Area. This particular trail is part of the Slí Charman rehabilitation project. Once construction can resume, official WWT signage, including emergency markers will be installed allowing locals and visitors to make the most out of our free natural heritage amenities.
Protect Courtown Woods
The committee of Courtown Community Council (CCC) met this week and all agreed we must request that Wexford County Council delay the sale of Courtown Woods, due to concerns regarding future protection and development. The committee are agreeable for the sale of the Leisure Centre to go ahead separately as the wider community are keen to have the pool reopened. The committee, on behalf of the wider community, believes that the Section 38 agreement only covers public access to the woods and does not provide enough protection from further development in the woods. It is essential the details are clarified with all stakeholders now before the former community owned woodland transfers into private ownership.
CCC welcomes new business to the area and are keen to see the Adventure & Leisure Centre open where it is sympathetic with the communities needs and the townscape. However, the community has concerns with the lack of transparency and community engagement throughout the sale process. A significant area of Courtown Woods is designated as a proposed Natural Heritage Area. These Woods are a valued amenity for locals and visitors and provide a unique opportunity for the public to immerse themselves in nature and to connect with biodiversity in these times of crises. The community has fought for the protection of these woods for many decades and want no further felling of any trees, except under exceptional circumstances (i.e tree disease, extreme damage).CCC is currently collaborating with Wexford County Council, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Coillte and Wexford Walking Trails to manage all the trail systems in Courtown.
We are requesting an opportunity to meet with the proposed new owners, Wexford Co. Council and the liquidators to discuss the importance of our woods to the community, and to create a management plan for the future protection of the area.
CCC has partnered with SSE Renewables who have sponsored €5,000 for the purchase of a coin operated telescope to be installed on the seafront/pier. The telescope will tie in neatly with the Pier Enhancement works. Educational signage will accompany the telescope, giving locals and visitors an unimpeded view of the coastline and offshore works, as well as an opportunity to learn about the natural and cultural heritage of the local area. WCC and local councillors have kindly allocated funds to transport and install the telescope which is currently enroute from the UK. Finance generated from the Telescope will help CCC with ongoing maintenance and community development projects.
Burrow Management Plan
After joint talks with WTT, Wexford County Council (WCC) and Seal Rescue Ireland, a Burrow Management Plan has been established surrounding the Courtown - Kiltennel Trail. This includes natural, regenerative enhancements around the trail/coast/woodland areas. Native tree planting and dune restoration to help encourage biodiversity, aid mitigation of coastal erosion/climate change and maximise public amenity value. Minimising lawn mowing provides food and habitat for wild bees, insects, birds and mammals, as well as improving resilience against drought and fire while simultaneously providing a beautiful, abundant, recreational area for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy.
CCC won 2nd prize in the 2020 Keep Wexford Beautiful Awards in the Best Community Coastal Management category. We would like to thank Cliona Connelly from Environment Section, WCC and CES staff, local representatives and local stakeholders who continue to support our community conservation efforts.
CCC was nominated the designated local group by WWT to take on the monitoring duties for all the Walking Trails Courtown. We have since submitted 4 seasonal monitoring and maintenance reports covering the three accredited Walking Trails in Courtown Woods as well as the Slí Charman coastal trail from Courtown to Kiltennel.
WCC have recently provided CCC with some funding to engage the community in some aesthetic maintenance work around the harbour area. This collaborative effort between local groups, businesses and individuals will help us prepare for the busy summer season ahead. CCC are looking to set up a bank of volunteers or people that are interested in one-off or regular volunteering activities. These activities will include painting, tree planting, invasive species removal, and a number of other community activities to help maintain and develop the area over the coming months and years. In all instances, HSE guidelines will be strictly followed to protect the health of our community. (Link to website to sign up?)
On the 11th of March this year there was a severe diesel spill that travelled from Ballycanew all the way to Courtown Harbour for over 24 hours. Melanie and Jeshua responded urgently to the issue and were able to narrow down the point source of pollution. WCC staff were able to locate exact point the following day and are in the process of conducting a thorough investigation. CCC in collaboration with Seal Rescue Ireland had already been monitoring the local water quality closely. Seal Rescue Ireland is undertaking a year long study of nutrient levels and sedimentation in the River, both of which cause widespread degradation of the river’s habitats, drinking and bathing water quality and biodiversity. The widespread community response to the oil spill shone a light on the vulnerability of the Ounavarra/Owenvarragh River to pollution events and highlighted the communities connection to our local waterway. CCC has set up a new Sub-Committee called Ounavarra Vision which will be a dynamic, solution-based taskforce that will operate similar to a Rivers Trust.
Our ongoing collaborative efforts with Seal Rescue Ireland to restore local water quality to high status, improve biodiversity and climate resilience, and provide a better natural amenity for the public are well underway. Over the past 3 months 3,921 native trees have been planted in the Courtown, Kiltennel and Riverchapel areas. They consist of 19 different species that will provide a welcome boost to local biodiversity, and help to filter out pollutants from entering our precious waterways. Keep an eye out for ways you too can get involved with all the exciting, outdoor work.
Submissions to County Wexford Development Plan:
1) *Natural Heritage Areas
We highlighted the omission of two very important, protected Natural Heritage Areas from Map 2a on the County Wexford Development Plan. These are Courtown Dunes and Glen pNHA (site code 000757) and Ardamine Wood pNHA (site code 001733).
2) Harbour Architectural Conservation
CCC proposed the architectural conservation of Courtown Harbour which was built 1826 - 1847 as part of a distress relief project by Lord Courtown. Conservation to include the harbour walls, the slipway and boathouse, the overflow, the Island, both stone bridges, steps and harbour bollards. The harbour itself was planned by renowned civil engineer Sir Alexander Nimmo. The purpose of the submission is to safeguard these invaluable historical areas from development which is not sympathetic with the townscape and coastal heritage.
3) Cycle Path/Greenway
The last census stated the population of Courtown/Riverchapel is 6,287. With this in mind we proposed that Wexford County Council make provisions for a cycle path/greenway from Courtown Riverchapel to Gorey allowing our residents and students a safe and healthy mode of transportation. This would not only benefit our local community but also tourist based activities in the wider area. In establishing any future cycling or walking infrastructure we asked for the preservation of mature trees and habitats whenever possible.
Riverchapel/Courtown Link Walk
Last year WCC and CCC were successful in securing €100,000 in the latest round of Town and Village Renewal Scheme. This funding will allow for a more pleasant walking experience along the existing footpath from Riverchapel to Courtown. The work will include additional rest points and upgrades to existing seating areas in Riverchapel/Courtown. New signage and landscaping will provide a better, safer amenity with greater accessibility for both locals and visitors to enjoy year round. We would like to thank Liz Stanley for her dedication to this project.
We are very excited to see local artist Kate Kos begin work on her newest piece in Riverchapel. The piece entitled 'Sea Ribbon' will depict a vibrant underwater scene incorporating both native and tropical marine life. This is a joint initiative between CCC, Creative Ireland Programme, WCC, Saint John of God Hospitaller Services Group, Riverchapel Busy Bees and Brooks Supermarket.
Ongoing meetings with Wexford County Council to help complete this project which was originally awarded in 2018. The total awarded was €197,000. We have been informed a revised, scaled back edition of the original plan will update the ship and promenade areas. It is currently at tendering stage. Further meetings have been scheduled to complete the project as quickly as possible. CCC met with WCC Environment and Coastal Engineering Departments to discuss improvements to coastal access points namely the beach at the old bar and around the boardwalk area. Progress is anticipated, pending discussions with Irish Water Safety. Coastal Erosion is an ongoing problem that we continue to emphasise. We ask the council for support and community engagement in considering regenerative, nature-based solutions to help mitigate the impacts Coastal Erosion and Climate Change are having on our Coastal Town.
Thanks to the diligence of our secretary Clair Swinburne, we are well on our way to completing new Governance Code obligations to the Charities Regulator. This involves meeting minimum standards to effectively manage and control our charity. Good governance involves putting in place systems and processes to ensure that a charity achieves it's charitable objectives with integrity and is managed in an effective, efficient, accountable and transparent way.
Community Development Pilot Scheme
CCC would like to sincerely thank Marie-Louise Byrne and John Kelly from Wexford Local Development have provided a huge amount of support to Riverchael Commuity Complex and CCC recently. CCC and RCC formed a joint committee to apply to the Community Development Pilot Programme. This Pilot Programme is supported through the Deptarment of Rural and Commuity Development. We have received notification that there has been a lot of interest, but we believe our area is in a good position to be awarded this funding, which will hugely benefit the whole community. We are also thankful to Senator Malcolm Byrne who put forward a recommendation of our application.
Courtown/Arklow CGU Still Seeking New Coastguard Site
Courtown/Arklow Coast Guard Unit is made up of 23 volunteers. The current base lacks the necessary resources to support the operations of the unit. The unit are on call 24/7 to protect lives along a large stretch of coast between Mizen Head and Cahore. The crew currently have no toilets or changing facilities and lack space to store the gear required to effectively carry out the search & rescue tasks. For the past 2 years the Unit have been requesting Wexford County Council to provide a site on which the Irish Coast Guard can build a new facility, and where the crew can adequately train and house emergency coast guard vehicles and equipment. We will continue to highlight this issue until a suitable site is secured.