Fine Gael TD for Kildare South Martin Heydon, has presented the results of his survey on the Curragh Plains to Minister for Defence and Agriculture Simon Coveney highlighting the need for a Consultative Forum with members drawn from the various stakeholders and users of the Curragh Plains.
“Respondents to my survey expressed a huge sense of pride in the unique nature of the Curragh Plains which are synonymous with Kildare. While there was a belief that more needed to be done to improve the upkeep of the Plains, many respondents wanted to ensure that the natural beauty and qualities of the Plains be retained and protected. Incidents of littering, dumping, illegal encampments and driving on the Plains were the main negative elements highlighted.
“It was interesting to note that many respondents did not seem aware of who was actually responsible for management of the Curragh Plains. There was a strong sense of potential for further use while maintaining the natural qualities of the Plains. Suggestions of marked walking trails, historical tours, increased information boards and designated parking areas were made to increase the usage and improve the experience for both local users and tourists alike.
“The development of an audio tour and app of the Curragh by Kildare County Council is a really exciting venture that will compliment the efforts to increase tourist visits while also helping to educate Kildare people about the rich history of the Plains.
“Minister Coveney was very interested in the findings of the survey, coming from the local residents and users of the Curragh Plains. He is considering my proposal for the establishment of a forum chaired by the Department of Defence, as a consultative platform to highlight the positive potential and challenges associated with the Plains in a collaborative approach, drawing up and agreeing very clear proposals that will then be acted upon. I will be engaging further with Minister Coveney and officials in the Department of Defence to deliver this forum.
“Coinciding with efforts to expand the UN Training Centre into an International Institute in the Curragh Camp, along with the significant redevelopment of the Curragh Racecourse and gallops, I believe the time is now right for the establishment of a forum to focus on the overall Curragh Plains.
COPY OF REPORT ON SURVEY RESULTS SET OUT BELOW
LOCAL SURVEY ON USE OF THE CURRAGH PLAINS
Results, Recommendations & Conclusions
In March 2015, arising from a number of comments and queries I had received on the use of the Curragh plains, and following engagement with Minister for Defence and Agricutlure Simon Coveney, I undertook a survey of residents in the vicinity of the Curragh through my website and local newsletters to get the views of the real users of the plains, the local Kildare people.
This report details the results and recommendations from that survey.
Overall Points Noted
- There was a huge sense of pride from Kildare Residents in the natural resource of the Curragh Plains that is synonymous with Kildare.
- Conflicting views exist that while more needs to be done on the Curragh, the natural beauty and qualities that make it what it is, need to be retained and protected.
- More work is required in monitoring the Curragh Plains to protect against the main negative elements of litter, dumping, driving on the plains and illegal encampments.
- There appears to be a lack of detailed knowledge of the rich heritage and history of the Curragh even among local residents. I found a desire for more information.
- Many respondents noted the potential of the Curragh as a tourist destination if walking trails or historic information could be incorporated into the area without disturbing the natural surroundings.
It emerged that in general respondents had little knowledge of who has responsibility for management of the Plains. But there was a strong view that more proactive management is required.
A consultative Forum of relevant stakeholders chaired by the Department of Defence could examine the challenges and opportunities that arise and give a platform for these concerns to be addressed. Such a Forum could also undertake an examination of existing Bye-Laws under the Curragh of Kildare Act with a view to updating them.
Summary of Results
- 96% of respondents currently use the Curragh plains for work or recreation purposes, highlighted below;
|Use of the Curragh||% of respondents|
|Fitness purposes, running, walking||43%|
|Family outings, walks, picnics||34%|
|Golf/pitch & putt||8%|
|Army related activities||3%|
|Equine related activities||2%|
|Farming related activities||1%|
|Other (educational tours, heritage purposes, dog walking)||9%|
- 84% of those who responded believe there are some negative aspects to the Curragh that need to be addressed;
- It should be remembered that these are mainly the views of general residents of the area;
- Of these, the main items highlighted are set out below;
|Negative Aspects of Curragh from Users Perspective||% of respondents|
|Littering and Dumping of Rubbish||31%|
|Cars, Motorbikes, Quads driving on the Plains||20%|
|Overuse/Misuse of the Curragh by Sheep Farmers||17%|
|Anti-Social Behaviour & Crime||9%|
|Lack of walking paths, playgrounds, recreational facilities||6%|
|Damage to natural heritage||3%|
Measures that Could Address Negative Aspects
To follow on from the above, respondents gave suggestions as to measures they believe could help to relieve some of the negative aspects above;
|Measures that Could Address Negative Aspects||% of respondents|
|Zero Tolerance of Illegal Encampments||20%|
|Assess & Address Impact of Sheep & Sheep Farming||18%|
|Develop designated parking areas||16%|
|Regular Patrols to ensure enforcement of laws||16%|
|Additional bins in busy areas||11%|
|More Information Boards/Signage to increase awareness||7%|
|Rumble strips/road markings/No Driving Signs||7%|
|Other (including change of profile of Curragh to National Park)||5%|
Additional Facilities that could promote recreational Tourist Uses
While many respondents want to retain the general sense and purpose of the Curragh as it is, there were many suggestions of small changes that could be made to try to increase and improve the usage of the Curragh, for tourists and locals alike, while not disturbing its overall positive and natural qualities.
|Facilities to promote Recreational/Tourist Uses||% of respondents|
|Marked & Mapped Walking trails/routes which could highlight local interest areas or historical events||30%|
|Designated Parking Areas||19%|
|Historical tours of significant landmarks||12%|
|Signposts or information boards at key information points||11%|
|Don’t change it or make it a tourist venue||10%|
|Café area/picnic tables||8%|
|More use of existing sporting facilities||7%|
Measures to Enhance History of Military and the Rich Heritage of the Curragh
In light of the large role the Military have played in the life of the Curragh, respondents were asked for their views on measures that could help to enhance the history of the military and the rich heritage of the Curragh. The most common responses are set out below.
|Measures to Enhance History & Heritage Role of Military|
|Include a visitor centre as part of the Military Museum|
|Extend the opening hours of the Military Museum, particularly at weekends|
|Increased signage and tours to promote and highlight military history and achievements|
|Military Re-enactments during Heritage week for example|
|Increase advertisement of the Military Museum in Local Communities|
|Encourage Visits from local schools to understand historical links of the area|
Sample of Comments on Usage of the Curragh
“Act before it is too late”
“The Curragh plains amenity needs to be maintained…….., but there is enough space in 5000 acres to introduce some measures above to attract visitors and use the recreational area that it is.”
“There is a wealth of expertise that exists locally and in other government agencies that would assist in protecting this national gem.”
“By Adding Walking routes, providing designated parking with information boards the Curragh is more likely to be picked up as a new tourism initiative such as Irelands Ancient East.”
“I would like to see a walking trail developed around the perimeter of the plain. It would give some more positive energy to the plain”
“It would be shame to see anything been built on it!! Then it’s no longer unique. I love that after the craziness of the celtic tiger that the Curragh was still untouched. I am very proud of the Curragh and love bringing visitors there for walks”
“Apart from being a proposed NHA and a national monument, the Curragh is hugely important to the identity of Co Kildare. If managed correctly, it has huge untapped tourism potential”
“It is terrible to see the amount of incremental damage in recent years and if measures are not quickly put in place for its management much of its potential will be lost”
“Although the Curragh maybe under the Ministry of Defence it’s not clear to Joe public whose is in charge. There is signage near the ranges and the Curragh Camp but outside little or nothing. There are no information boards explaining what the Curragh is about. There seems to be an assumption that people just know.”
“The Curragh plains are a unique and beautiful amenity that I feel we take for granted. How much do people know of the history and geography of the Curragh and its surrounding area? It would be nice to have a visitor information centre on the Curragh to help promote the area and help educate people about this great place.”
“Could a group of interested parties be brought together to help promote all that the Curragh has to offer. There are the Curragh plains, the race course, the Curragh camp, the old military grave yard, Donnellys Hollow…”