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Kilkee Beach Photograph by John Kelly.

Co-operation urged to cope with surge of domestic tourists

THE peak of the holiday season is coming within weeks, and west and north Clare are going to see huge numbers of visitors, as staycations will again trump foreign travel for most people this year.
With the influx to come in mind, Fianna Fáil’s Joe Killeen put forward a motion calling for greater preparedness.
The councillor’s motion called for, “Clare County Council, Fáilte Ireland, the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Gardai and other relevant agencies, as well as pubs and restaurants, to come together to assess their facilities in preparation for the summer staycation and make the changes necessary, including temporary emergency parking, provision of extra toilet facilities and refuse collection, in order to promote greater preparedness for the anticipated influx of tourists.”
In a written reply, Director of Service Leonard Cleary outlined some of the steps that are being taken.
“In the post-Covid tourism context, visitors are encouraged to spend more time outdoors experiencing the Clare tourism attractions.
“Clare County Council works with Fáilte Ireland, National Parks and Wildlife Service, Gardai and other relevant agencies, including the hospitality sector, to provide facilities and appropriate parking.
“The Council is conscious that some visitor attractions are located in environmentally sensitive areas and therefore will have to work closely with the NPWS. At present there are no short term works being carried out.”
In his response, Mr Cleary also said, “As restaurants, bars and hotels reopen post Covid-19, the availability of public conveniences will be extended throughout the county.
“The Council is providing additional toilets in Fanore and Diamond Rocks, Kilkee.
“It is a challenge to provide them in more remote locations without causing more hazards in that it is difficult if they are not maintained continuously.
“The Council has increased our resources at numerous facilities with additional waste collection services.”
Speaking on the motion, Councillor Killeen said it is very important to be ready for what is coming.
“I know a huge amount of work has been undertaken to try and get ready for the tourists that are going to come to our county. We have to prepare for them and it requires greater resources and greater manpower.”
He praised the Council’s staff who he said have made huge efforts to prepare.
“I see them when I’m strolling up the promenade at Lahinch and they are at other beaches in west Clare.
“The road crews are working Monday to Friday on the roads and are being redeployed on those days and at weekends to try and cope with the volume of waste and to try to help and accommodate the number of tourists that come to our area.”
He said that the effort needs to be all-encompassing.
“Many of the food outlets are making a huge effort but some of the food outlets could make a greater effort and show cause by putting a few bins out.
“Tidy Towns groups are now in the loop thankfully and are co-ooperating and supporting and in return are being supported by Clare County Council which is commendable.
“Local community and voluntary groups should also be included in the preparedness to see if they have ideas or can give some voluntary help to accommodate all those tourists.”
He said he was pleased that certain landowners have been helpful.
“Some landowners have been approached and are making an effort. I know it’s not that easy because you have to be mindful of the sensitivity of the flora and the fauna and there are legal issues to be considered as well.
“Obviously the Gardai need to be in the loop, Blakes’ Corner is difficult at the best of times, but it’s made more difficult with the volume of tourists in our area.”
Councillor Joe Garrihy paid tribute to the Council staff, who he said do everything they can to “respond to a tsunami of demand for services”.
He urged greater communication with the other agencies, to make sure they all play their part too.
“I think there’s a worthwhile exercise in trying to liaise across agencies and make sure they step up to the plate in the same manner.
“I know the Director and other senior engineers have pulled out all the stops.”
Councillor Garrihy said there is a huge amount of activity around Fanore of late.
“It reminds me of the Battle of Little Bighorn, when I go up there on the weekend it’s become a wild camping zone.
“It’s great to see people there, the locals are welcoming them, and a lot of local farmers have come forward and said we’re prepared to look at making our fields available for parking and all that.”
Fianna Fáil’s Pat Hayes says that the issue of parking needs to be dealt with, while Sinn Féín’s Donna McGettigan agreed and said that the absence of women’s toilet facilities is another problem.
“As someone who’s always up in the mountains and hills, parking is a serious issue, and toilet facilities, particularly for women. We can’t just stand at the side of the road.”
Summing up, Councillor Killeen referred to a traffic survey carried out on the L1112 from Kilnaboy Cross to the National Park, some time ago.
“1,200 cars travelled that car in one day that was surveyed in August 2016. In one hour 180 vehicles travelled that road. There are no parking spaces and no accommodation. there.
“All the agencies need to talk to each other and work collaboratively to make sure the tourists will enjoy their stay and will return to us again.”

About Owen Ryan

Owen Ryan has been a journalist with the Clare Champion since 2007, having previously worked for a number of other regional titles in Limerick, Galway and Cork.