Students row in to help out at Kerry beach

Students have given nature a hand in helping to restore a top beach damaged by winter storms early last year.

Sections of sand dunes in the Blue Flag-designated beach at Ballyheigue in Co Kerry had been disturbed by the stormy elements.

Marram grass has now been planted to help stabilise the dunes.

The work was undertaken by students from the Institute of Technology (IT) in Tralee and Killorglin Community College in an effort to counteract coastal erosion and to conserve an important area for flora and fauna.

The project was completed as part of An Taisce’s Clean Coast Programme which also involved a national coastal clean-up which continues until Saturday next.

Kerry County Council has provided fencing to protect the area where the marram grass was planted.

Groups involved in last year’s clean beach programme had removed 500,000 marine litter items from beaches, nationally.

Marine litter includes a range of materials which have been deliberately discarded, or accidentally lost on shore or at sea, as well as materials carried out to sea from land, rivers, drainage, sewerage systems and even by the wind.

A recent UN environment programme report estimated eight million litter items enter the global marine environment daily.

Meanwhile, worsening erosion at one of the country’s best known Blue Flag beaches has led to calls for EU funding to prevent more damage and flooding in communities, previously protected by dunes.

A gap in the dunes at Rossbeigh, Co Kerry, where the sea broke through seven years ago, is increasing in size.

Independent county councillor Michael Cahill estimates it would cost millions of euro to complete urgent works and save what remains of the dunes, but neither the Government or Kerry County Council have the necessary funding.

He had sought EU funding to deal with what he described as a “constantly deteriorating situation”.

However, county council engineers say the erosion at Rossbeigh was the result of natural phenomena. The nature of the sandy peninsula made the area very susceptible to erosion which was difficult to counteract.

“There are no obvious means of preventing the erosion at Rossbeigh,” the council said. “The only possible alternative would require a large-scale and very expensive sand dredging and beach nourishment programme that would need to be repeated at regular intervals.

The council said it would not commit to any work until the results of further studies were known.

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