Friends of the Irish Environment (FIE) are appealing to county councillors not to “kill the golden [tourism] goose”.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has applied to the council for permission to build a 1km paved road in the Beaufort area, at the edge of Killarney National Park.
Councillors will soon vote on a request for a material contravention of the county development plan to allow road access to the Tomies Wood area of the park, which is frequented by walkers and wildlife. Ancient oakwoods are a feature of the area, which is home to the reintroduced white-tailed eagles, while Greenland white-fronted geese use it as a wintering home.
FIE director Tony Lowes said both birds required the highest degree of protection from disturbance and the geese, in particular, were sensitive to humans within 800m. In a letter to councillors, he stated: “This site is unique within Ireland. It is a national park, a Special Area of Conservation, a special protection area for birds, a natural heritage area and core areas of a Unesco biosphere reserve. It is defined in the management plan as ‘a wilderness area composed of a mosaic of wildlife habitats’.”
Mr Lowes said the group had no objection to a car park at the narrow public road on which cars park.
There is vehicular access for the NPWS and Coillte, by agreement, but the public is limited to walking.
A material contravention is a procedure whereby councillors can overrule the county development plan. The Tomies area is protected as “prime special amenity” in the plan and roads are not permitted. A material contravention would require three-quarters of councillors to vote for the proposal.