Visitors to a new €4.5 million nature facility in Kerry will be able to enjoy safari-style boat rides through wetlands.
The rides will be among the attractions in an eco-park due to open in Tralee in March, aimed at luring nature-loving tourists to the region.
The project, jointly funded by Tralee Town Council and Failte Ireland, will also add to Tralee’s visitor attractions and is being developed on a site close to the town’s Aquadome, an indoor water leisure facility.
Construction work is almost completed on the 25-acre site — divided into activity and nature zones.
The line of the old Blennerville steam railway separates the sections and it is hoped to restore a train to the line in 2013.
A 20-metre viewing tower overlooks the park and will offer panoramic views of the Tralee Bay ecosystem, a Natura 2000 site.
There will also be close circuit television links to other nature sites in Kerry.
“We want the centre to be a resource for people who want to know more about the natural heritage of north and west Kerry,” said John Griffin, tourism officer with Kerry local authorities.
“Eco-tourism is defying the recession and is continuing to grow. We’re positioning Kerry to harness this growing international market.”
Tralee Town Council has set up the Tralee Bay Wetlands Company to manage and run the park and the company has recently invited applications for the posts of manager and ecologist.
Upwards of 15 people will be employed in the eco-park at peak season. Failte Ireland allocated €3m for the development and Tralee Town Council provided €1.5m.
The activity zone includes a man-made lake suitable for pursuits such as canoeing and pedal boats, a learn-to-fish lake stocked by Inland Fisheries Ireland and a 2.2km walk and cycle way.
Some of the wild habitat of Tralee Bay has been reconstructed in the nature zone which features freshwater and saltwater wetlands, canals and reed beds through which safari-style boats will travel.
An eco-friendly visitor centre overlooks the lakes and incorporates an interpretive centre for the Tralee Bay ecosystem.
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