“Local people taking control of their future with suitable supports and importantly resources will work but without consistently high standards all the work and promise will likely fail.”
2 Territory: The Ballyhoura area comprises, north east Cork and south and east Limerick, totaling 89 Electoral Divisions and a population of 78,191 (2011). The area covers 1,879 sq. km with much of the area occupied by a flat limestone plain. There are 13 towns and 41 smaller settlements within the area. The area is bordered on the east by the Galty Mountains reaching their highest point at Galtymore, the highest inland mountain in Ireland. The Ballyhoura Mountains cut across the area on the border of Cork and Limerick with Seefin Mountain (528m) being the highest peak.
3 Founded: Ballyhoura Failte Society (1986) / Ballyhoura Development Ltd (1989).
4 Genesis: Communities within the Ballyhoura area first came together as a reaction to the continued decline of services and employment opportunities in the area. Ballyhoura Fáilte Society was set up as a tourism co-op closely followed by Ballyhoura Development which focused on infrastructure and services thus giving the community an integrated local development strategy. In 1992 Ballyhoura Development Ltd was incorporated (not-for-profit companies limited by guarantee with charitable status) and contracted with the Department of Agriculture to administer the LEADER I Programme. The company has designed and developed Local Development Strategies for each of the LEADER Programmes in the intervening years. [Note: Since 2007 the Ballyhoura LEADER / RDP programme has allocated over 15m euro to 549 local initiatives.]
5 Vision: An area with empowered inclusive communities and a diversified economy.
Mission: To work in partnership to develop empowered and inclusive communities that inspire and embrace new opportunities, drive positive sustainable social and economic change and reduce inequalities thereby making the Ballyhoura area an attractive location in which to live, do business and visit.
6 Key Objectives:– Ballyhoura Development have three main objectives: 1) Diversification and development of the economy, 2) Development of communities, equality and inclusion and 3) Protection and enhancement of the environment. The objectives are delivered through: Administration of Supports: Ballyhoura Development offers a number of supports around the areas of community development, enterprise, tourism, employment and the environment through successfully delivering multiple programmes and initiatives. Responding to Local Need & Opportunity: It plays different but complementary roles including researcher, identifier of needs/gaps/solutions, animator, deliverer, supporter, facilitator, encourager, implementer, project leader and project partner. Practical Partnership and Collaboration: Ballyhoura has developed strong networks, partnerships and collaborative projects at national and European levels to lever additional resources into the area. Retaining a Local Focus: The community remains at the centre of all activity.
7 Structure: Ballyhoura Development is structured as a Local Development Company partnership of Local Government, Social Partners, Community and Voluntary and Statutory agencies. The company operates a holistic delivery model, supported by outreach facilities, cross-functional staff and complementary core programmes. The service delivery model ensures engagement with individuals, communities and businesses on many levels, in connection with a range of initiatives, projects and programmes. The high levels of quality engagement improves awareness and participation in a range of local activities and increases participation in local decision making and in the process of designing, developing and implementing the local development strategy. The Board oversees the overall corporate governance and management of the Company and is supported by 7 issue specific Sub-Committees. The Sub-Committees facilitate and support in-depth discussions on issues and by presenting researched recommendations to the Board, There are 3 Corporate Sub-Committees: Audit, Finance & Governance (AFG); Human Resources; & Strategy. The 4 sectoral Sub-Committees cover: Economic (Enterprise & Employment); Community; Environment and Agriculture and Tourism.
8 Operational Management: The overall organisation employs in excess of 40 people working out of multiple offices across the area, many restored community spaces. The main office is in Kilfinane. As a sample the company administers the Rural Development Programme (LEADER), the Social Inclusion Community Activation Programme (SICAP), The Rural Social Scheme (RSS), The Tús Scheme, Local Training Initiative’s (LTI’s), Job Club, and the Towards Occupation Programme. [Note: Ballyhoura Development Ltd adopted the Governance Code: a Code of Practice for Good Governance of Community, Voluntary and Charitable Organisations in 2013.]
9 Annual Core Budget: The SICAP and LEADER programmes are core multi annual programmes delivered though the company averaging, 2 million euro. [Note: There are a range of other programmes that are annual or shorter programmes.]
10 Sample Programming: Communications: 3/4 Newsletters go out per annum to Heritage, Tourism and Community interests; Heritage & Genealogy: The Ireland’s Reaching Out project and the roll out of the Historic Graveyard Survey project linking communities in the area to the diaspora overseas; Recreation: The delivery of the Ballyhoura Active Series (12 road races for people of all abilities that takes place across the area from April to October each year); Route Development: 1,500 km of new walking trails developed over the last two decades, 2 X signposted driving routes; Mountain Biking: Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Park attracted 70k visitors in 2014 – Ireland’s first purpose built mountain bike trail network comprising 92km with 3 x loops. Facilities include car park, toilet & showers and bike wash; Education & Outreach: The Ballyhoura Outdoor Classrooms, Discover Primary Science Centres (32 in RoI); Signage Programme: The roll out of an extensive signage programme for towns/villages together with heritage and cultural attractions in the area; Research: facilitated and supported environmental and socio-economic research projects with the likes of UL, LIT and UCC. Environment: Team Limerick Clean-up (TLC) Day – 15-20 communities in the area come together on Good Friday to clean-up their environments. All equipment is supplied free of charge and there is a central pick up of rubbish at the end of the day.
11 Some Practical Problems Encountered: Path maintenance, erosion from off road vehicles, illegal dumping and antisocial behaviour, consistent marketing budgets and approaches; Walking festivals numbers are declining both in Ballyhoura and elsewhere; Constant prioritisation between the likes of managing gorse / heather and protecting the habitat of endangered species like the hen harrier; Ensuring participation from and regular communication with all communities; Overcoming underinvestment in infrastructure, public transport and broadband.
12 Some Unresolved Issues: Consistency and longevity in systems of electronic counters to gather usage data; The length of time it takes for nature to reclaim a damaged trail and managing / maintaining routes accordingly “ … we have witnessed significant human erosion problems over the last three years.”; the National Looped Walks are not being adequately promoted given the initial investment by the state; the threat of the National Trails Office pulling back from annual route inspections to be replaced by own inspection … this raises question on training, supervision and quality control.
13 Lessons Learned: The importance of strong capacitated local groups with their own integrated social and economic plans to help drive economic, social and environment improvements; Importance of building and managing stakeholder engagement and collaboration; Building and maintaining personal relationships with all your necessary public partners; Festival and events play a significant role in promoting the brand externally and demonstrating the economic benefits of rural tourism / recreation to the community; The value of having two active and committed walking clubs in the area who work well together; There are always training needs.
14 Work Profile: Community Engagement, Animation, Capacity Building and Training, 50%; Supporting Community Led Local Development across economic development, community and the environment 50%.