Gardaí on bikes to patrol park as concern for public safety rises

Gardaí on mountain bikes are to become a daily feature of life in Killarney National Park as concerns grow about public safety.

There are also plans to tackle the rise in underage drinking parties in the popular demesne area of the park.

Incidents such as the sexual assault of a youth last week, as well as public drinking by all age groups, and persistent streaker incidents in recent months, have persuaded gardaí to systematically use bike patrols.

The park, renowned for its tranquility and horse and jarvey image, is visited by more than a million people each year.

While incidents are very few, they are disturbing, park management have said.

Sgt Dermot O’Connell said the park was now so popular it demanded more than fire-brigade type intervention, and regular policing was needed.

Motorbikes and cars would be inappropriate and mountain bikes were to be used from early summer.

Also being monitored by authorities is a spike in teenage drinking, where parties are organised through social network sites and are taking place in off-beat areas of the park under specific trees.

Huge amounts of bottles and cans were recovered by wardens and park management in the past number of days.

Pat Dawson, regional manager with the national parks and wildlife service, said he was taken aback at the amounts of bottles recovered.

“I am meeting with gardaí, with whom we have always had a good working relationship, to review security,” said Mr Dawson.

CCTV cameras are to be installed at locations beyond the main gates and wildlife rangers are being deployed at weekends.

Public drinking in the park has been of concern in the recent past, with groups of adults also congregating to drink there.

The spike in teenager parties came to light over the St Patrick’s Day weekend, when hundreds congregated in the demesne. Gardaí were called as some teenagers had become very ill.

The young people climb over large fences in the Ross Road area to gain access, it is believed.

Mr Dawson confirmed CCTV cameras, triggered by night-time movement, are likely to be placed in vulnerable spots.

The reopening of Killarney House within the next two years will mean extra security concerns, he said.

The house is currently undergoing a multi-million euro restoration programme.

Meanwhile, the sexual assault on a teenager last week near the children’s playground in the Port Road area of the demesne is still under investigation. No arrests have been made.

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