Behind-the-scenes moves are underway to resolve a long-running dispute which has resulted in a private landowner blocking a traditional access road to a western section of Killarney National Park, Co Kerry.
Walkers entering the Tomies Wood area, near Beaufort, are faced with a locked gate topped with barbed wire, and a 2m-high fence alongside.
Signs declaring ‘private property’ and ‘no trespassing’ have been erected in the area. Tomies Wood, overlooking the lower lake, is a popular walking area and the closing of access to the wood is causing embarrassment to the tourism industry in Co Kerry and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
With the high tourist season underway, walkers will be disappointed when they find their path blocked.
Last January, despite objections from environmentalists and the local Cremin family, Kerry’s county councillors voted in favour of a contentious new access road to that area of the park.
The service had applied to the council for permission to build a 1km paved road. Killarney Municipal Authority unanimously voted in January for a material contravention of the county development plan to allow the road project to proceed.
The Cremins objected and lobbied councillors, claiming the planning application related to part of private lands, without their consent. The family also said they had been experiencing extreme coercion from “the State and its selected agents’’.
Friends of the Irish Environment director Tony Lowes backed the Cremins, saying there were concerns the road would be part of a bigger plan that could include a bridge and looped walk around the Lakes of Killarney.
He claimed it was part of a phased plan for the 32km loop and a ‘stalking horse’ for a project-splitting plan which the public should be made aware of.
Mr Lowes also said it was a special area of conservation, a special protection area for birds, a natural heritage area with core areas of a Unesco biosphere reserve, a site of ancient oakwoods, and a breeding area for rare white-tailed eagles.
The Cremin family could not be reached for comment yesterday. A Department of Arts and Heritage spokesperson said department officials were aware of the issue and were examining the matter. The department is understood to be in contact with the landowners in an effort to break the impasse.
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