“Given the sensitive uplands and riverine environments there is a need for integrated management among all the various players … full permission of landowners and community collaboration”
1 Contact: John Egan, Rural Recreation Officer, South Tipperary Development Company, Unit 2C Carrigeen Commercial Park, Clogheen Road, Cahir, Co.Tipperary. Email:firstname.lastname@example.org / Mobile: 00353 (0) 87 0556465
2 Territory: The Galtee Mountains are Ireland’s highest inland range and have attracted hill walkers for many decades. The mountains are designated a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) and a proposed Natural Heritage Area due to priority habitats like blanket bog, heath and the presence of rare plants on the steep rocky slopes. Its main peaks are Knockeenatoung (601m), Galtybeg (799m) and Galtymore (919m) with the latter being Ireland’s only inland Monroe (peak over 3000ft). There are five corrie lakes on the range, accessible only by foot. Coillte land help define the landscape. The Heritage Towns of Tipperary, Cashel and Cahir are attractive portals into the mountains. Other larger communities include Mitchelstown and Kilfinane. The main villages comprise Burncourt, Ballylooby, Kilbehenny, Anglesboro, Galbally, Ballylanders, Lisvarrinane, Glen of Aherlow, and Bansha spread across the three counties of Tipperary, Cork and Limerick. [Note: Tipperary has more than 50 designated trails.]
3 Founded: 2011 [Note: The Steering Group was formed following the production of the Galtee Mountains Integrated Management & Tourism Development Strategy co-funded by South Tipperary Development Company and Ballyhoura Development Company.]
4 Genesis: The Galtees Steering Group grew out of the identified need for a more joined up approach to managing a significant uplands area on the island. The multiplicity of stakeholders across three counties made this work challenging. The process employed in developing the Plan (point 3 above) facilitated the informal group coming together, supported by the two LEADER companies. A second phase of the Plan involved helped to recruit members, focus on mission and immediate tasks and finally raise the capacity of the initial group. The recruitment of an experienced external chair was an important part of the foundation laying phase of the project.
5 Vision: The coordination of recreational activity, local food and joined-up service provision to develop an attractive and sustainable ‘inland mountain’ destination.
6 Key Objectives:– The main objective of the SG is to increase visitor numbers to the Galtee region and generate economic benefits to the businesses and communities within the Galtee Catchment area. [Note: The Galtees Steering Group concept is to build collegiality in strategic planning, integrated product & service development, branding/ logo, marketing and promotion – all to enhance what is there and fill gaps where they are identified.]
7 Structure: The SG comprise approximately 12 key people from business, community, rural development agencies, county councils, and statutory agencies such as FI and Coillte (up to 20 are invited to attend). The group see themselves as a community based / bottom up organisation. There are no formal landowner / farming representatives. The SG meet monthly under a current external chair, with quarterly reporting to the ‘Galtees Destination’ community at large. They are currently informal in structure but aspire to becoming formally constituted in order to be able to access future RDP funding. [Note: At each SG meeting one community is invited to update the meeting about what has happened in their community from a tourism / recreational perspective.]
8 Operational Management & Staff: South Tipperary Development Company host and support the SG with the RRO providing much of the administrative / coordination support required. There are no paid staff, all other effort is voluntary.
9 Annual Core Budget: 25k per annum direct / indirect approximately. Expenditure is all “project led” [Note: The only annual budget the group has is what it gets in membership from the communities. The group has however successfully accessed funding for the projects listed .]
10 Sample Programming: The delivery of the Galtee Mountains Path Study (2015) aimed to assess the condition of the mountain paths and provide details on what remedial / repair works are needed to prevent and combat further erosion; The delivery of a multi media Story Map www.exploretipperary.ie ; Worked locally with Knockmealdown Active on delivering a polular tear off map (X 2) of the region; Support for the Galtee Walking Club (est. 2003) currently with over 150 members who deliver events such as the Winter Walking Festival in the Glen of Aherlow (annually end January); Fund raising – there is a nominal 100e charge per village per year going up to 300e for the larger towns; Training of tour guides particuliary in the areas of local heritage; Planning for a new competition to identify the most “Visitor Friendly” communtiy in the Galtees.
11 Some Practical Problems Encountered: There is growing local concern about the visual and ecological impact of increased recreational visitor numbers on the Galtees with path erosion becoming evident on the ridge-lines and in soft boggy saddles; Parochialism is a major obstacle; Lack of dedicated staff; Funding lags.
12 Some Unresolved Issues: The ‘fight for survival’ of upland communities; Human flight from the uplands; Pressure on uplands farming with farms needing to get bigger and bigger just to survive; The impact of mass forestry in upland areas over coming decades, have we considered properly and had a proper debate on all the likely implications; Increased numbers of walking clubs / individual walkers, walking festivals and charity fund raising events, especially around Galtymore, call out for an enhanced and integrated visitor management planning; Maintaining the involvement of communities.
13 Lessons Learned: Due to effective communication at local level there are no major outstanding access issues; That the Galtee’s possess a far reaching and mature festivals programme that can be further developed;
The identification that the Galtees are an excellent area for uplands peat and peat restoration research projects; Need good leadership from the outset; Have a clear terms of reference and keep refreshing these at regular intervals; The certification of national trails needs to be done properly in order to maintain overall standards; Need to dovetail with all other sister bodies such as Ballyhoura, Knockmealdowns, Glen of Aherlow, and the Munster Vales.
14 Work Profile: Administration and fund raising 40%; Communications 30%; Community engagement 20%; Route development 10%.