Plans to open Spike Island by summer

 

CORK COUNTY Council hopes to open Spike Island in Cork Harbour to the public by the summer as the first step towards developing the former prison island as a major tourist attraction, according to county manager Martin Riordan.

At the beginning a ferry will be used but the option of building a cable car for tourists from the mainland is being examined. He told The Irish Timesthe council aimed to allow the public access to the island as soon as possible once health and safety issues had been resolved, with a ferry connection from Cobh the most likely option at this stage for getting visitors on to the island.

“It remains our target to get people out on to the island by mid-2010. There’s a pent-up demand from a lot of people to get out to Spike, people who have a connection with the island through family or people who worked there and simply want to see the place,” he said.

Last July the Government transferred ownership of the 106-acre island including Fort Mitchel, which was used as a prison up until 2004, from the Department of Justice to Cork County Council to enable the council to explore the island’s tourism potential.

Mr Riordan said while the council would be preparing medium- to long-term plans for the development of the island as a tourist attraction, it was important that it should be opened to the public as quickly as possible but that this would have to be done in a controlled way.

“I want to make sure the people of Cork can go out to the island but, because of health-and-safety issues and the sheer size of the island, it will have to be done in a controlled and managed way through a number of trips each week during the summer months.”

A steering committee chaired by Brendan Tuohy, a former secretary general of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, was recently appointed to look at how the island and former prison could be developed as a tourist attraction.

Mr Riordan said while the steering committee would look at the long-term possibility of linking the island by cable car to Ringaskiddy, the only short-term option in terms of providing access is via a ferry service from Cobh, as happened when it was used as a prison.

“Historically, there was a wooden causeway from Haulbowline island to Spike and dealing with prisoners, they weren’t too concerned about health and safety,” Mr Riordan said.

“If the situation at the former steel plant on Haulbowline was resolved, Haulbowline could become an access point.

“But the idea of a cable car is an interesting one and we would like to generate ideas over time to keep the interest and excitement going and that’s one of the possibilities, but for the numbers we are talking about, initially, a ferry service is the way to do it.”

A website has been set up inviting the public to make suggestions as to how Spike Island should be developed as a tourist attraction, www.spikeislandcork.com