Plan to turn river ‘treated as open sewer’ into navigable tourist route

A GROUP is aiming to turn “an open sewer” into a major beacon for marine tourism, generating millions for the economy.

Cork County Council’s Western Committee has heard proposals from River Ilen Planning Project Liaison Executive (RIPPLE) and is to urge the full county council to give it financial support for its project in Skibbereen.

RIPPLE chairman, Frank Fahey, said his group — which contains public representatives, professionals and members of the local business community — is planning a major restoration of the river from the estuary mouth up to the town.

“We will restore our waterway to the great resource it once was when timber, coal, sand and many other types of cargo were carried on its waters to and from Baltimore port.

“In today’s world, we would expect the cargo would be people in small craft from hundreds of yachts, cruisers and other vessels which call to Baltimore each year, taking what is a truly magnificent voyage from Baltimore to Skibbereen and vice versa,” Mr Fahy said.

He said the plan mainly centred on cleaning up the River Ilen and Caol stream, restoring and developing quay walls, slipways and mooring facilities.

In addition, they plan to provide boardwalks and floating pontoons in the area and to restore the double-arched bridge and stone steps in the heart of the town.

Mr Fahey said the River Ilen and Caol stream had been treated as “an open sewer” for 30 years and the “overwhelming stench” in summer months had lost Skibbereen tourists.

However, the advent of a major new sewerage scheme in the town will now enable RIPPLE to achieve its goals. The delegation was introduced to councillors by Cllr Tadgh O’Donovan.

Ted Murphy, the council’s senior executive engineer, said he would support the move to make the river a central feature of Skibbereen again.

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