By Peter O’Connell
TIMBER has been stolen by the lorryload from Kilrush Wood over the past few months, it has emerged.
Kilrush gardaí are investigating the theft of tonnes of timber from the 420-acre wood, where up to 50 acres of trees were knocked, or partially knocked, during the February storms.
Concerns over security in Kilrush Wood were raised at the November 2013 meeting of Kilrush Town Council by Councillor Tom Prendeville.
The theft of trees was raised at the April meeting of Kilrush Town Council, where town mayor Paul Moroney requested an update from Coillte on the extent of the damage done during the storms.
The meeting also heard that people illegally cutting the wood were doing so with chainsaws they are not qualified to handle. While Coillte is responsible for the majority of the wood, where the Vandeleur Walled Garden is located, Kilrush Town Council has leased a section until the end of 2015.
In a statement, Coillte acknowledged the theft of wood is an ongoing problem in Kilrush.
“Theft of timber is a major issue, where many people are active in wood-felling and removal, with no approval. They are operating chainsaws, ignoring safety regulations and creating a risk of serious injury,” Coillte revealed in an email read at the meeting.
“We have been in touch with the gardaí in Kilrush, on many occasions, regarding security but it is a major challenge to monitor the numerous access points leading to the wood,” Coillte added.
Councillor Moroney said, in his view, illegal acquisition of timber from the wood is a concern.
“There are problems with the timber being taken illegally. There is an issue there with stealing. I remember a time when you could buy a tree. Lads are going in now and taking them. The problem is they are using chainsaws that they mightn’t be trained to use. I’m delighted that Coillte are in touch with the gardaí, who are monitoring the situation as well as they can.
“I went in recently for a run and I was devastated by the damage done inside there. Trees that were there for a long number of years were knocked over with roots showing,” the town mayor said.
Councillor Marian McMahon Jones said people inexperienced in the use of chainsaws are risking injury.
“Some trees move while they are being cut because they are partially rooted. It’s extremely dangerous,” she told the meeting.
Most of the recent storm damage to Kilrush Wood was caused on Wednesday, February 12. Many paths were blocked, while Coillte say they are in the process of acquiring a felling licence to clear the wood of knocked trees.
“Most of the internal roads and trails though the wood that were blocked with trees have been cleared, with the exception of one, where a mechanical harvester is required. Approximately 1,500m2 of timber has blown over, which covers a substantial area throughout the wood. We are awaiting planning licence approval from the forest service before we can proceed with harvesting the timber. The plan is to harvest all the wood as soon as the felling licence is secured,” Coillte confirmed.
It’s been acknowledged that timber is being “stolen by the lorry-load” from the wood – both storm-damaged trees, as well as ones cut down.
At the November council meeting, Councillor Prendeville identified security issues amongst his reasons for seeking a meeting with Coillte and Kilrush Town Council regarding the future development of the wood.
“People want to go there without fear and have what we refer to as the peaceful enjoyment of the natural amenity that is Kilrush Wood. It’s something we would want to look at. We would also want to look at reports that certain people might be driving into the woods at night time. We’d want to make sure that we know who is using the amenity that is there. It’s a general security issue, whether that means the employment of a warden or whatever,” Councillor Prendeville said at the time.
“There is open access there at night time. We hear about cars driving in there late at night. Whatever sort of activity is going on there, I don’t know. I’m not saying anything untoward is happening but, at the same time, there is unrestricted public access there at the moment.
“The security issue is one that hasn’t been dealt with. I’m talking on behalf of people who park there and who go for walks,” he added.
Managed by Coillte Teoranta, the wood was planted by the Vandeleur landlord family in the early 19th century. It was formerly the Vandeleur Demesne, while the ruined Vandeleur House was demolished in 1973. The wood contains huge, mature trees planted in the 18th century.