Cork County Council warns it’s “a long way” from breaking even on money it has invested in Spike Island, even though the island has won a number of international tourism awards.
However, it is taking new steps to hit the magic 100,000-vistor-per-year mark which will make the island pay for itself.
John Forde, a senior official working in the council’s tourism section, told a meeting in County Hall that they will be seeking tenders in August for a three-year contract to run a 120-passenger ferry from Cobh to the island. The capacity of the current ferry is only 70.
He said increased capacity and frequency will help bolster visitor numbers and the cruise liners were now starting to buy tours on the island for their passengers, which was another bonus.
Cllr Seamus McGrath said that currently there are 45,000 visitors to the island per year and maintains that there should be access points to it from other parts of the harbour and not just Cobh.
Mr Forde said that at present the county council is concentrating on providing access from Cobh, but in the longer terms could see multiple access routes from other parts of the harbour being developed.
“We are a long way away from making it pay. A self-sustaining enterprise is our priority,” Mr Forde said.
He said the council is working with the Port of Cork to develop a 24m pontoon at Kennedy Pier, Cobh.
This will provide for better access to the ferry and will be wheelchair-friendly. It’s similar in size to the pontoon on Spike Island.
Cllr Sinead Sheppard said she was glad to see Cobh would stay as the main access point for Spike Island: “The whole draw with Spike is leaving from Cobh. I welcome the fact that we’re bringing a bigger vessel in.”
Cllr Kieran McCarthy said he was concerned when council chief executive, Tim Lucey, recently did not rule out the possibility of building a bridge from the Ringaskiddy side onto the island. He said if this is built, it would have a major negative impact on Cobh tourism.
Cllr Michael ‘Frick’ Murphy pointed out that there is a pontoon in Passage West which could be used as an access route to Spike Island.
It’s envisaged in the future that there will be seaborne connectivity between Spike Island and Camden Fort Meagher in Crosshaven.
Crosshaven Community Association has surrendered its lease on that fort to the council. It is now being managed by a council-run company, Camden Fort Meagher Development Company.
The local authority appointed JCA Architects, leading a team of sub-consultants, to prepare a masterplan for its future use, conservation and restoration.
Mr Forde said it’s hoped it will create a viable addition to the tourism infrastructure of the county and attract more tourism revenue to Crosshaven.
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