“A man recently went on a motorbike from Kinlough to Kiltyclogher and counted 72 occupied houses while also calculating 70% of these housed individuals or couples over 70 years of age.”
1 Contact: Jackie Warnock, Manager, Benwiskin Centre, Ballintrillick, Co. Sligo. Tel: +353 (0) 71 917 6721 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.benwiskincentre.com. Glens to Sea: www.facebook.com/glenstosea / Email: email@example.com
2 Territory: Ballintrillick Environmental Group are located in the shadow of Benwiskin Mountain (514m) close to the Gleniff Horseshoe, part of the Dartry Mountain range which includes the only tabletop mountain in Europe, Benbulben (526m) immediately to the west. Truskmore (647m) is the highest peak on a large plateau stretching across northeast Sligo and northwest Leitrim. The nearest centres of population are Mullaghmore and Kinlough. Glens to Sea: The region comprises a rectangle from Manorhamilton through Glenade and Melvin to Tullaghan (all County Leitrim) and along the coast south through Mullaghmore and Cliffony down to Drumcliff (County Sligo) back eastwards to Glencar (County Leitrim).
3 Founded: Ballintrillick Environmental Group -1992 / Glens to Sea – 2014. [Note: The Benwiskin Centre incorporating a 28 bed community owned hostel and community centre was opened in 2000.]
4 Genesis: The Group emerged out of local concerns for the high levels of illegal dumping coupled with poor road access to the mountains in the scenic area of Ballintrillick, north Sligo. A clean up day was organised which has subsequently became an annual clean up event. The Group was thus born comprising community, farming / landowning, heritage, tourism and wildlife representatives. They focused initially on acquiring from Coillte and developing the overgrown Barytes Mill site at the base of The Gleniff Horseshoe. In 2000 the Benwiskin Centre was opened by the Group providing much needed hostel accommodation, a community resource centre and employment. The Centre is today a dynamic and multifaceted community enterprise driven by a strong community and environmental ethos. The Glens to Sea was a local response to de-population which aims to bring together to positively influence their own future a number of separated communities divided by the mountains, tradition and county boundaries. [Note: The population in 40 representative townlands researched through the 1901 census was 3 times the numbers listed in the 2011 census. This statistic has been seen as a local wake up call by community leaders.]
5 Vision: Ballintrillick Environmental Group:- To enhance the local community, generate and sustain local employment while preserving the environment. Glens to Sea:- Strives to unite the distinct and unconnected communities in the region to discuss, plan and deliver an enhanced quality of life and a more sustainable future for all who live, work and visit.
6 Key Objectives:– Ballintrillick Environmental Group:- To preserve and enhance the local community; To promote economic development within the area; To provide social amenities and activities; Preserve and enhance the local environment and; To generate community goodwill, community spirit and to create economic development. Glens to Sea:- The Group are currently at the discussion / getting to know each other phase having delivered an ambitious autumn / winter series of themed conversations (2014 / 2015) about the communities future. The outcome of which has been – enhanced community connections across the whole 8 communities that make up the territory; the collection of solid community data and feedback to aid / justify future planning; Relationship building with development agencies, local authorities and other strategic partners; Greater community appreciation for what it has currently and what it can strive together to achieve; Event management skills embedded into the community; Positive public profile to counter legacy issues associated with the area and; Recognition of all that is positive about the community.
7 Structure: Ballintrillick Environmental Group:- became a limited company with a Board of 11 directors in 1994 and acquired valuable charitable status in 1999. The Glens to Sea remains an informal community forum with no formal structure as of yet. [Note: A Glens to Sea Report – Sustaining our Community came out of the conversations and is being employed as a roadmap on the way forward. It was unanimously accepted at a public meeting of over 70 in October 2015.]
8 Operational Management & Staff: Ballintrillick Environmental Group:- currently employs 3 full time and 2 part-time staff including a Manager, Office Assistant, 2 X Housekeepers and a Caretaker. They have also secured a TUS worker under Sligo Leader. The Group provide ad-hoc employment to around 13 tutors per year. There is a strong reliance on voluntary help from members of the Group and the wider community. The Centre is located roughly at the mid point of the Glens to Sea areas and has provided not just a welcome neutral meeting space but valuable practical assistance in helping its sister project gain traction. The Glens to Sea is a full voluntary initiative.
9 Annual Core Budget: Ballintrillick Environmental Group:- €55k pa (excluding employment subsidies) / Glens to Sea – 1k
[Note: As a consequence of cash flow / funding payment uncertainty the Group financially manage the enterprise with a minimum of a 13 week cash reserve.]
10 Sample Programming & Services: Ballintrillick Environmental Group:- Environmental Projects & Targets include the practical delivery of the following – Reduction in the use of non-renewable resources; Reduce reliance on energy produced from non renewable resources; Reduce, re-use and recycle waste wherever possible which is a core philosophy of the Group; Prevent and minimise pollution through education and active clean-ups; Increase the use of recycled materials and materials from renewable sources; Promote environmentally friendly practices with staff, guests and the public through practical actions; Continue to hold the EU Flower Ecolabel certification; 5% Reduction on oil consumption in the next 12 months; 5% reduction on electricity consumption in the next 12 months; 10% reduction in waste in the next 12 months and; 10% reduction in water consumption over next 12 months. Community & Visitor Services – Continue to provide high quality hostel accommodation for individuals, families, groups including special packages for youth /student groups and recreational visitors; Design and produce suitable on-line / off-line promotional material [see: www.benwiskincentre.com]; Hall / room hire; Variety of popular day / evening classes i.e. Yoga, Art, Card Games, Scouts, Basket Making, Photography; Regular festival and events e.g. Harvest and Christmas time; The Benwiskin Centre is registered for the solemnisation of civil marriages; Office services to local micro businesses; Community laundry services; Furniture hire; Community Chiropody Clinic; Mobile Library and; Bicycle Hire Service. The Glens to Sea delivered 5 half day sessions addressing 5 distinct themes using 5 venues across the territory hosted by the community for the community. In excess of 400 people attending the events out of a population of just over 14k and; The generation of a follow-up Report (2015) on the process and programme delivery plots the future direction of the initiative. They have also delivered through voluntary effort and a zero budget a new driving/walking/cycling route of the Gleniff Horseshoe. This pilot employs a GIS platform with supporting maps and signage. A second route is now in planning.
11 Some Practical Problems Encountered: How archaeology is undervalued as an educational / tourism resource in the uplands … there should be a ‘National Heritage Scheme’ similar to the National Walks Scheme; The unpredictability of the local planning process; Given some local access issues which received national publicity over the last decade the Group are acutely aware of the need to ‘keep talking’, they believe their ‘softly softly’ approach helped neutralise some of the tension; In scattered upland communities today neighbour may very well not know neighbour … upland community groups have an important role to play in practically addressing isolation especially in the single occupancy rural dwelling and ensuring new arrivals feel connected.
12 Some Unresolved Issues: Some access issues locally remain unresolved, however they are improving e.g. Aroo Mountain access route (2016) in Glenade Valley; Parochialism; Fund raising is a constant challenge; The threat of the area being planted with trees that will only benefit ‘the pinstriped suits in Dublin’; De-population – the Gleniff Horseshoe had 56 houses listed on the 1911 census, there was 5 listed in 2011 … without concrete facts like this it is hard to make your case to government, agencies and local authorities; Poor and expensive broadband coverage.
13 Lessons Learned: How hard it is to make a living / keep a family together in an upland area today; Quality publicity matters – the Benwiskin Centre in 2012 was listed at number 1 in the ‘Top Five Green Hostels in Europe’ in an article written by Catherine Mack for the National Geographic’s Traveller Magazine; New upland groups need mentoring especially on core issues like ‘making the connections’ and ‘fund raising’; The importance of local competent research to help with case making; There remains a high level of ignorance of the basic facts surrounding upland living from both sides, community and public sector; The active support of elected local representative has been valuable; Without integrity a group will rapidly loose the support of the community … good and on-going communication through all channels is essential; If you want a solution for upland communities in Leitrim, find a use for rushes!.
14 Work Profile: The Ballintrillick Environmental Group – Administration and Fund raising 70%; Programme management 10%; Communications 10%; Property management 10%. Glens to Sea – Communications & Event Management 50%; Administration 50%.