Recreational Strategy for the Knockmealdown Mountains
A Feasibility Study for the development of a Recreational Strategy for the Knockmealdown Mountains was carried out in late 2010 by SLR Consulting. This is the Executive Summary of the findings of this study, you’ll find the full study in a PDF document at the end of this page.
The study involved field scoping, desk review and extensive consultations with stakeholders ranging across the community, private and public sectors. A public forum was held at the end of the consultative process to ensure that stakeholders were happy with the general conclusions and thrust of the Strategy.
The Knockmealdown Mountains enjoy under-exploited recreational potential in a beautiful, rural landscape, within 80km of major urban centres. The area has extensive, albeit fragmented, supporting services, which require both capacity and confidence building. The geographical area of influence was broken into three local (Triangle 1/ T1), sub-regional (Triangle 2/ T2) and regional (Triangle 3/ T3) scales for ease of reference. T1 is focussed on the three core communities of Clogheen, Goatenbridge and Newcastle in the foohills of the Knockmealdown
Mountains, while T2 includes Ardfinnan, Cahir and west towards Mitchelstown. T3 has a more strategic regional focus.
The following SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) summary of the Knockmealdowns current capacity to develop as a recreational tourism destination is based on the combined local, regional and national consultative and research data.
* Clean, unspoilt environment. The natural beauty of the area is its biggest attraction to visitors. Respondents to consultations expressed concern that tourism should .not kill the goose that lays the golden egg. i.e. that all care must be taken to respect and preserve the natural environment.
* Strong sense of heritage and its potential to attract visitors.
* Good array of linear and looped walking trails, suited to the non-elite walker/ hiker.
* Rural Recreation Officer in place.
* Excellent potential for integrated outdoor activities: walking, hillwalking, angling, cycling, kayaking/ canoeing, equestrian trails which can be packaged collaboratively to achieve economies .
* Cahir is a ‘centre of excellence’ for angling tourism, with high quality game fisheries in the Suir, Tar and Duag rivers.
* Gun clubs are pro-actively engaged in game conservation and environmental monitoring.
* Bus Eireann services public transport routes daily through T2, from Cork to Clonmel with
onward links to Kilkenny and national destinations.
* T2 ‘honeypot’ attractions of Cahir Castle and Mitchelstown Caves attract 55,000 and 10,000 visitors respectively and more can be done to retain visitors in the area.
* Positive public support has been offered for private/ community initiatives.
* Positive response among all consultees to the Recreational Strategy bodes well for the future.
* Knockmealdowns straddle three countries and thus not a priority for any local authority.
* There is no distinctive ‘Knockmealdowns Mountains’ brand;
* No central point at which visitors can access tourism information; no central website (this was prior to the commissioning of this website).
* Walking trails are locally over-exploited with erosion of most popular walks near The Vee.
* Single NPWS ranger for south Tipperary; thus under-resourced capacity to monitor environment/ litter/ oversee trails and use of 4WD/ scramblers
* Current accommodation base in Triangle 1 is insufficient to hold a critical mass of visitors in the area, particularly with no 3*-4* Hotel
* Accommodation base in T1/ T2 is fragmentary, with no history of collaborative marketing
* Rural pubs available, but with limited / no food provision
* Signage is weak from Cahir, Clonmel and Lismore and particularly off the M8 motorway, a critical tourist corridor linking Dublin and the SouthWest.
* Traffic speeds are dangerous for cyclists along the main roads
* Poor maintenance along parts of the Tipperary Heritage Way
* Limited activities for families, particularly children under-10;
* Limited evening/ cultural activities for young adults/ adults
*A fragmentary approach exists to tourism by a range of operators
* Potential to develop a unique brand, with capacity to resonate key attractions to develop the area as a vibrant recreational centre.
* Service providers willing to participate and work collaboratively, with public supports.
* Packaging/ bundling of attractions & services, such as short breaks and weekends based on the range of accommodation/ activities/ walking/ trekking/angling/equestrian/ golf, etc. with service providers and key attractions, linked to festivals and events.
* New product ideas such as breac-Gaeltacht, walking festivals and educational/environmental programmes. These will need to be teased out in terms of pragmatic considerations such as personnel, accommodation base, access, insurance, training requirements and capacity to deliver.
* Both heritage facilities at Mitchelstown & Cahir Castle would like to strengthen their educational outreach programmes/ community linkages.
* Links to other outdoor recreational initiatives at regional levels, to create a Munster Borders ‘Destination’.
* Build on existing low level seasonal (angling, walking) & cultural events (Draoícht, Gaeltacht, Rhododendron, etc.)
*Build partnerships among existing community and voluntary organisations, with public sector supports.
* Sustainability of defined ‘Driver’ to implement the Knockmealdown Mountains Recreational Strategy in a commercially sustainable fashion.
* That service providers will not rise to the challenge of collaboration and packages development (training will be required).
* Visitor trends towards short break holidays in urban areas, versus longer leisurely holidays in rural areas.
* Daytrippers to Cahir Castle / Mitchelstown Caves give poor return to local economy.
* Decline in the B&B sector, coupled with the perception that Fáilte Ireland grading for accommodation providers is too stringent for SME operators, which may disencourage new service provider entrants.
>> More integration and less fragmentation is required, at all levels
While the recreational base is largely in place, the existing fragmentation of products and services must be overcome. Activity will focus on developing a partnership approach to walking/hiking, angling, culture and heritage, adventure sports and ancillary supporting services, within an environmentally sustainable framework. This can be ‘driven’ through the facilitation of the Muintir na Tíre’s offer of a part-time project Officer, supported by the community and the existing Tipperary Rural Recreation Officer, within the framework of a Knockmealdown Mountains Partnership approach.
The feasibility study, through the consultation and discussions, has aimed to develop a workable Recreational Strategy, largely based on existing human and financial resources. The key elements (Triangles 1, 2) can be delivered for €162,000, which with an additional Communications budget of €34,500 would cost less than €200,000, over 3-5 years. If a more ambitious target is set, to include a more regional approach (Triangle 3) and large capital item, would bring the total cost to €376,500.
The authors are extremely impressed with the level of commitment shown by all stakeholders, community, public and private, which will ensure that the recreational strategy has an excellent chance of delivery.
It is recommended that:
* The Knockmealdown Mountains Partnership (KMP) be established in early 2011, encompassing interest groups from landowners, community groups, activities (walking, cycling, angling, biking, shooting, paragliding, kayaking etc), service providers (accommodation, food, pubs, transport etc) and key public agencies (STDC, STTC, South Tipp CoCo, Coillte, Inland Fisheries, NPWS, etc), training agencies (Fás, VEC) and community employment schemes.
* KMP to be facilitated by a part-time Muintir na Tíre Project Officer, supported by community leaders and the Rural Recreation Officer of the South Tipperary Development Company;
* Establish a private company limited by guarantee in order to have a legal entity to procure funding. Establish a bank account and obtain tax clearance from Revenue. Early actions to be financed through the conduit of the South Tipperary Tourism Company, until the private company limited by guarantee is established.
* Working groups be established as recommended in the Strategy to address specific tasks and goals; training supports to be provided to the leaders of those groups.
* Internal & external Communications & Marketing Plan enacted through 2011-2015
* Funding applications be placed with STDC and other public funding agencies, including Fás, VEC, County Enterprise Board, Fáilte Ireland, etc, as applies;
* Focus on early building of network, to deliver .soft. capacity, with subsequent focus on new products and services as set out in the Action Plan;
* An early facilitated branding exercise, ‘Knockmealdowns Active!’ or some such brand, should be agreed and a marketing and promotional campaign delivered as recommended in the Communications & Marketing Plan contained herein;
* New products & services to be developed through the KMD Action Plan 2011/2012,
* Ongoing building of regional alliances to commence early building of a ‘Munster Mountains’ or ‘Munster Border’ recreational destination of excellence.
* Monitoring & evaluation (M&E) be carried out annually to provide benchmarking and sense of achievement.