Croagh Patrick parking shortage has created ‘huge’ safety risk, locals claim

Murrisk representative says lack of facilities for visitors could lead to serious accidents

File image of  pilgrims climbing Croagh Patrick, Co Mayo. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

File image of pilgrims climbing Croagh Patrick, Co Mayo. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill/The Irish Times

 

The lack of parking facilities at Croagh Patrick has resulted in pilgrims’ vehicles blocking paths, driveways and an emergency helicopter pad, local residents have said.

The concern comes ahead of the annual Reek Sunday pilgrimage this weekend which will see some 20,000 people climb the Co Mayo mountain from early morning.

Jenny Ryan, secretary of the Murrisk Development Association, said that while locals welcome the tourism associated with climbing the mountain, there aren’t adequate facilities in place to deal with the numbers.

“From Easter until the end of September, the car park that is there is full. People park throughout the village [Murrisk] on both sides of the road, and then buses park there as well,” Ms Ryan said.

“During the week, somebody rang to ask me how are they meant to get out of their own driveway because cars had parked outside and blocked it.”

Ms Ryan said that the increased vehicle numbers are a “huge health and safety issue”.

“For people who live there and want to walk up and down the road, you can’t because the path is blocked by cars and buses. You can’t pull out of the road safely where I live,” she said.

“It could lead to huge accidents. The rescue helicopter landing site is in Millennium Park, where the Famine memorial is, and if they needed to rescue someone last Saturday they wouldn’t have been able to land because there were cars there.”

Ms Ryan said that the issue could “easily be rectified” if additional car parking solutions were put in place.

Christy Hyland, an Independent councillor, said Mayo County Council needs to better the facilities in Murrisk and around the mountain itself to maintain tourism numbers.

“The toilets are disgraceful, there isn’t enough parking and coaches have to park on the roadside,” Mr Hyland said. “This mountain is vital for the tourist economy, not just in Murrisk, but also in Mayo. It’s a disgrace that a national monument isn’t getting the facilities or the refurbishment it needs.”

The local community has also raised issues to do with the condition of the mountain. An organisation called the Croagh Patrick Stakeholders Group was set up in November 2015 in response to concerns about the safety of the structure.

Erosion issues

The Croagh Patrick Stakeholders Group is hoping to address issues of erosion on the mountain due to its regular use. It is estimated that about 120,000 people climb the mountain each year.

The organisation submitted a planning application to Mayo County Council last week, seeking permission for restoration works and to establish a sustainable access point to the Reek. The plan also hopes to put in place arrangements for the mountain’s future care.

Martin Keating, chairman of the group, said they want to preserve the mountain due to its importance to tourism in the county.

“We’ve been working over the last number of years trying to address those sort of issues such as erosion. We have looked at the condition of the mountain, spoken to consultants and advised the public about these issues,” Mr Keating said.

“We are working on the principle of keeping people on the path because it benefits the region and the county generally. Our focus is on the mountain itself and the erosion. We are putting the mountain at the centre of our attention,” he added.

A spokesman for Mayo County Council said they were “aware of the issues with parking during peak periods”.

“We are exploring options to improve the situation. We are also working on plans to upgrade the toilet facilities,” the spokesman added.