“The Vales is working across four distinct areas … the challenge is great.”
1 Contact: Marie Phelan, Tourism Development Officer, Tipperary County Council, Community & Economic Development Section, Ballingarrane House, Cahir Rd., Clonmel, Co. Tipperary / Tel: :00353 (0) 761065000 / Email: email@example.com. / Knockmealdown Active:- Mark Rylands, Chair, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com / www.knockmealdownactive.com
2 Territory: Munster Vales is a tourism destination development project in its infancy incorporating the Comeragh, Knockmealdown, Galtee and the Ballyhoura mountain ranges. The purpose of the Munster Vales concept is to promote the geographical area as a brand, linking the counties of Waterford, Tipperary, Cork and Limerick through the notion of the Munster Vales, which are geographically contiguous, and are divided by a set of four county boundaries. The Munster Vales area sits equidistance between four of Ireland’s six cities: Cork, Limerick, Waterford and Kilkenny. Gateway towns include Cashel, Tipperary, Carrick on Suir, Dungarvan, Fermoy, Mitchelstown, Buttevant and Charleville. The highest peak is Galtymore at 917m and the area is approx 270k hectares.
3 Founded: 2014 [Note: A Concept Development & Feasibility Study – Munster Peaks (Working Title) was commissioned by an all party Munster Peaks Committee in 2013 and delivered in March 2014]. Knockmealdown Active emerged from a Recreational Strategy for the Knockmealdown Mountains, February 2011.
4 Genesis: Tipperary Council Council are a key driver of this inter-county project. The motivation behind it is strongly linked to outdoor recreation development, tourism and rural economic revival. The Munster Vales is one of two tourism flagship project for Tipperary with the other being Lough Derg. Importantly it has been preceded by significant upland community initiatives such as the Knockmealdown, Ballyhoura and the Galtees which have developed their own personality, priorities and capacity. [Note: Knockmealdown Active is a multi-community initiative to promote trade and tourism in the communities at the foothills of the Knockmealdown Mountains these communities include Ballyporeen, Clogheen, Goatenbridge, Ardfinnan and Newcastle.]
5 Vision: Munster Vales: The development of a new tourism destination that will develop and promote all the unique offerings from the Golden Vale to the Munster Peaks. Knockmealdown Active: To create and promote a well-resourced and unique destination focused on walking, angling, culture and heritage delivered through community based enterprises, festivals and events, and underpinned by an educational and sustainable ethos.
6 Key Objectives:– Munster Peaks Priority Actions 2015 / 2016 include:- Develop a destination marketing plan and at least 4 propositions for the 2016 market; Identify infrastructural projects across the region for further development; Develop a communications strategy and begin immediately to engage with local communities; Complete a training needs analysis and prepare a training programme for tourism providers and; Focus on familiarisation events with the Board and the tourism providers. [Note: The KMD Active objectives tend to be locally focused / project orientated in the realms of enhancing access, delivering events and greater promotional activity.]
7 Structure: The Boards representation are made up of community (5), recreational users (2), farmers / landowners (4), tourism interests (4), heritage (1), wildlife & ecology (2), local authority (3) and local development companies (2). The Board is formally constituted as a limited company and completed training in good governance. They are currently meeting about seven times per year. The KMD Active group is driven by community [Note: KMD Active expressed the opinion that possible sectoral interests could dominate the ‘agenda’ of a future all island upland communities body that they as a group may not necessarily agree with e.g. recreational access to upland areas.]
8 Operational Management & Staff: Munster Vales: The Tipperary County Councils Tourism Development Officers has a part time coordination input plus a recently appointed RsS marketing post (19.5hrs per week). Waterford County Councils Tourism Officer inputs into the Board as does Tipperary County Council Director of Community and Economic Development (current Chairperson) and a Director from Cork County Council. South Tipperary Development Company and Ballyhoura Development have seats on the Board which staff members fulfil. The voluntary effort on the Board is limited to the five community reps. The Council supplies all the in kind supports required at this stage of development. Knockmealdown Active: Knockmealdown Active demonstrate how effective a community group can be employing Facebook especially in relation to events, fund raising and securing volunteers with nothing but voluntary input.
9 Annual Core Budget: Munster Vales 22k [Note: Munster Vales – Local Authorities, LEO’s, RDP and FI through Ireland’s Ancient East / Knockmealdown Active – RDP plus own funds in the region of 10k pa] / Knockmealdown Active have had a special programming (non-core) budget of approxomately 50k.
10 Sample Programming: Munster Vales: The focus to date has been on administration, research, structure and training. Knockmealdown Active: The design and management of www.knockmealdownactive.com; The on-going development and promotion of St Declan’s Way (96km) an ancient pilgrimage route linking the 5th century monastery of St. Declan in Ardmore, County Waterford with Cashel in County Tipperary; Supporting Knockmealdown Walking Club which was officially formed in early 2012; The ongoing development and promotion of an impressive list of local linear and looped walks; Innovative fund raising – e.g. supporting the production of two graphic novels used to promote local history / heritage. Both titles created by local artist Eamon Cowan have sold out generating much needed funds and significant positive publicity; The design and delivery of regular events spread across all five communities.
11 Some Practical Problems Encountered: A significant challenge is to ensure the Munster Vales adds real value to the existing upland focused initiatives; Lack of dedicated full time staff means development has been limited; Available resources often depends on the individual priorities and available staff and resources within each local authority area; The expected commitment from a voluntary committee from a external world that expects / demands professionalism; The enormous pressure placed on the shoulders of a relatively small number of volunteers; Some national agencies tend to be insensitive and ‘tell local groups what to do’;
12 Some Unresolved Issues: For both Munster Vales and the KMD Active the unpredictability of funding is demotivating and makes it difficult to plan beyond the year ahead; The loss of a significant percentage of the rural tourism accommodation base; Ensuring continuous buy-in from local communities especially across county borders; The Munster Vales is strongly aligning itself to Ireland’s Ancient East as a promotional spring board but how easily will the geography and offering fit with the roll out of the IAE overall strategy?; How best to develop and manage a brand that all stakeholders feel comfortable with.
13 Lessons Learned: No agency gets into trouble for saying ‘no’ but may well for saying ‘yes’; You can’t have enough local voluntary support with family and friends often the best approach to bringing in new blood; Muintir na Tire played an important role in practically helping Knockmealdown Active in its early days; It pays to be creative and brave when it comes to local fund raising.
14 Work Profile: Munster Vales:– Administration & fund raising 90%; Communications 5%; Community Engagement 5% / Knockmealdown Active:- Route development 30%; Communications 30%; Administration & fund raising 20%; Case making 20%.