The development of a €2.5m “underground experience” in old mine shafts dotting the cliffs along the Waterford coast is the next goal of the people behind the Copper Coast Geopark following the opening of their visitor centre at the weekend.
The Copper Coast is one of 100 UNESCO-designated geoparks around the world and achieved its status as a result of the unique geological rock formations along the coastline between Dungarvan and Tramore, as well as its heritage as a bustling copper mining base during the 19th century.
There are three UNESCO geoparks on this island, the others being the Burren in Co Clare, and Marble Arch in Co Fermanagh.
Congratulations to everyone at Copper Coast European Geopark http://t.co/5oGvOvZHlc— EarthScienceIreland (@rocksireland) November 24, 2013
Between 1810 and 1875, thousands were employed in the copper mines of Co Waterford and now the board of the Copper Coast Geopark wants to use the new visitor centre in the seaside village of Bunmahon as a stepping stone.
The visitor centre, in a former Church of Ireland church unused since 1945, was officially opened by Taoiseach Enda Kenny, who described the achievement as the community “fighting back” and promised the Government would help “in any way we can”.
A feasibility study in 2009 on behalf of Fáilte Ireland recommended the development of the visitor centre, and opening to visitors the old copper mine shafts at nearby Tankardstown.
The Taoiseach said the politicians’ job was to “sort out the public finances” to achieve an economy that helps people who want to help themselves.
“You have got a wonderful, fascinating story underground here that will be unleashed and told one day,” Mr Kenny said.
According to John Galloway, chairman of Copper Coast Geopark Ltd, another ambition along with the opening of the Tankardstown mine shaft is to grow the geopark towards the Comeragh Mountains and join forces with the county’s other great natural amenity. This would make geological sense, he said at Saturday’s opening, and would provide a “dream marketing opportunity” for the region.
Meanwhile, the converted church and the old Tankardstown mine mean the Copper Coast is “in possession of something special”, Mr Galloway said. “It’s a memory of the years when the rather genteel resort of Bunmahon became a throbbing hive of industrial activity.”
The Copper Coast board was founded 15 years ago when the communities of the string of villages along the shore between Dungarvan and Tramore came together to work on ways of celebrating and promoting their shared identity.
Mayor of Co Waterford Damien Geoghegan said the opening of the visitor centre “is about vision, ambition, determination and pride”.
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