ESB urged to restore alluvial forest pathways after Storm Ophelia

MEP says public access to the Gearagh near Macroom in Co Cork must be restored

The Gearagh was flooded as part the River Lee Hydro-electric scheme in the 1950s

The Gearagh was flooded as part the River Lee Hydro-electric scheme in the 1950s

 

The ESB has been urged to restore pathways in Ireland’s only extensive alluvial forest to a proper standard so that people can continue access the amenity outside Macroom in Co Cork as they did prior to Storm Ophelia.

Ireland South MEP Liadh Ní Riada said the ESB churned up many important pathways in the Gearagh while carrying out clean-up and maintenance work after Storm Ophelia, resulting in the ancient woodland become inaccessible in many areas.

“I have no doubt that the work carried out was of great importance to the Gearagh, especially after the effects of Storm Ophelia,” said Ms Ní Riada following a recent visit to the area which is located just off the Inchigeela Road, south east of Macroom.

“However, the Gearagh is used by a large number of people, particularly among the local community, and an assurance that paths will be restored as soon as possible would go a long way to allaying any fears regular users may have.”

An alluvial forest is one which grows in alluvial soils, which are soils which consist of earth and sand left behind on land which has been flooded or where a river once flowed.

The Gearagh, which was flooded as part the River Lee Hydro -electric scheme in the 1950s, is owned by the ESB which manages the delta-like area described by the National Parks and Wildlife Service as the only extensive alluvial forest in Europe west of the Rhine.

Ms Ní Riada said that she had written to the ESB, who have a statutory responsibility when it comes to the conservation and protection of the Gearagh, to seek assurances that the paths leading into the alluvial forest will be returned to a usable condition.

“The Gearagh is a national treasure and especially beloved by the local community. It’s important that it is not only preserved and protected but remains open and accessible to everybody so I have raised concerns over the access to the area with the ESB.”

Ms Ní Riada said she had asked the ESB to clarify whether the clean-up and maintenance work will continue for much longer and what remedial works the ESB plans to undertake to return the paths to a usable condition.

“The Gearagh is a Special Area of Conservation and regardless of what work is required the ESB have a duty to act with the greatest care when they enter it. We expect visitors to the Gearagh to treat it with the utmost respect and I don’t think it’s too much to ask to expect the same of the ESB.”

The ESB said that Storm Ophelia on October 16th had caused significant damage to trees in the area with 12 trees being knocked down or damaged on the Inchigeelagh Road serving the Gearagh while another 40 trees fell or were damaged on the public walkway which crosses the Gearagh.

The ESB assessed both incidents as posing a significant risk to public safety and moved to make safe the areas in a timely manner and also in advance of Storm Brian. All actions were undertaken from a Health and Safety perspective, said the company

The ESB confirmed in its statement that it has already been in contact with Ms Riada over her concerns and have assured her that all paths in the Gearagh will be restored when weather and ground conditions are favourable.

“ESB are well aware of the constraints of working in a special area of conservation. The work carried out was restricted to fallen or damaged trees only whilst at the same time was also balanced with consideration for the environmental restraints of the area.”