Footfall to Coillte-owned forests increased by nearly 40 per cent during the pandemic as people embraced the outdoors amid public-health restrictions. Some 2.2 million people visited Coillte’s top 50 forests between March and December 2020, a rise of 38 per cent on the same period the year before.
New data released by Coillte shows some of its forests tripled their visitor numbers during the pandemic. Its report compares figures from a month prior to the pandemic, February 2020, with December 2020, to show the swell in visitors since coronavirus restrictions came into force.
The Dublin mountains area, which encompasses Ticknock forest, continues to be the most popular of Coillte’s recreational sites, doubling its footfall to more than 60,800 in December. There were just over 30,000 visitors to the area during February 2020.
With 14,300 visitors during December, Donadea Forest Park in Co Kildare also tripled its pre-pandemic footfall. The park welcomed 4,800 visitors in February just before Covid-19 arrived.
The Curragh Chase in Co Limerick also saw a tripling of its numbers, with nearly 6,800 December visits, up from 2,300 in February. Rossmore Forest Park in Co Monaghan more than doubled its numbers, welcoming an extra 14,300 visitors in December 2020. Meanwhile, an additional 3,000 walkers made their way to Mullaghreelan Wood in Co Kildare in December, representing an 84 per cent increase in footfall on February’s tally.
The true number of visitors to Coillte’s sites is likely to be well in excess of the 2.2 million recorded by infrared heat sensors at its top 50 sites. The commercial forestry company, which is owned by the State, manages 260 recreational forests and has about 6,000 forest properties nationwide, each of which are open to the public.
Coillte chief executive Imelda Hurley said the organisation was “delighted so many people are using their local forests during this difficult and prolonged Covid lockdown”. She said it was “particularly important right now” to make use of the country’s many forests as it was widely agreed that fresh air and green spaces could enhance a person’s mood, happiness and overall health.
“We are glad people’s local forests are a healthy and positive outlet for them,” she said, adding that people should remember to adhere to Covid-19 restrictions when visiting.
Almost 80 per cent of Coillte’s forests are working forests, producing the wood most commonly used in Irish homes.