“Before I got involved in the Association I only met people briefly at the school gate.”
1 Contact: Breda Hyland, Co-Chair, Murrisk Development Association Ltd, Murrisk, Westport, Co Mayo. Mobile: 00353 (0) 868439797 / Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / www.murrisk.ie
2 Territory: The area is defined by both the north and south entry signs to the village of Murrisk and immediately eastwards to the summit of Croagh Patrick (the Reek). The conical shaped mountain rises to 764m. It is an important site of pilgrimage for the last 1500 years and some project attracted up to 250k visitors in 2015 (up from 50k in 2000). It is 8km from Westport above the villages of Murrisk and Lecanvey overlooking Clew Bay. Murrisk also hosts the National Famine Memorial. [Note: There are 46 shareholders on the peak.]
3 Founded: 1994
4 Genesis: The Development Association was born out a local charity fund raiser which raised 35k in six weeks. The organising group stayed together to respond to a number of critical gaps in local infrastructure, services, environment and visitor management on the Reek.
5 Vision: To act as the voice of the community and promotes community and village development.
6 Key Objectives:– Develop a range of community facilities; Maintain Murrisk as a beautiful, clean and tidy village and environs; Develop tourism especially to the Reek in a sensible and sensitive manner and; To improve and enhance the roads and supporting infrastructure into and through the village.
7 Structure: The group is a company limited by guarantee with charitable status. At any time there are a 5/6 on the Management Committee. All are informal community representatives. Established Action Groups include:- Community; Environment; Heritage & Local Economy; Roads & Infrastructure with the Reek cross cutting all activity. There are also a number of specific working committees under the Association including – Community Cafe Committee; Lotto Committee; Pattern & Heritage Committee and; Tidy Towns Committee.
8 Operational Management: The Murrisk Development Association are currently implementing their third Community Plan (2012 – 2017). Over 20 meetings per annum cover the sprectrum of activity. Staff and workers total 10 supported through a variety of government employment schemes e.g. CE & RSS. There has been a commitment to on-going management training for the Association since its inception facilited through a good working relationship with the local LEADER company. A community owned Cafe is adjacent to the car park at the foot of the Reek – it generates a steady all year round income stream as well as providing a central meeting space for all village related community activities. [Note: There is a privately owned purpose built Visitor Centre off the car park.]
9 Annual Core Budget: 50k per annum. [Note: Over 80% of all income comes from the Cafe; weekly lotto and a precentage of income from the Council run car park. The percentage of funding from the car park has to be allocated to a specific village enhancement project annually and agreed with the Council. In 2013 and 2014 for example the car park funds were used to install village lighting while in 2011 and 2012 the allocation was used for installing a section of footpaths.]
10 Sample Programming: Path Erosion: Worked closely with Mountaineering Ireland and Failte Ireland in commissioning a detailed report in (2012) from Elfyn Jones on an assessment of erosion on the pilgrim route. It is estimated remedial work will cost in the region of 1.5m euro; Strategic Planning: Developed with the support of South West Mayo Development Company a Community Plan: 2012-2017 providing the association with a clear forward going direction; Income Generation: Continue to manage and promote the popular Saturday night lotto while continuously striving to ensure the Cafe provides the visitors with the necessary pre / post Reek climb services; National Famine Memorial: A once-off project (1997) secured the hosting of this important bronze sculpture by John Behan depicting the ‘Coffin Ship’; Reek Sunday – the community has over 80 vounteers assisting pilgrims on the day;
11 Some Practical Problems Encountered: Managing and responding to the community ‘backlash’ to the imposition of a mandatory 3e car parking charges in the car park at the foot of the Reek; Getting the local authority to work effectively with the community takes time; We need more consistent data (e.g. counters) on those climbing the Reek; The often rapid change in public bodies / agencies systems and personnel so as a community group we are often faced with repeating information and attempting to build a new relationship which takes time; Securing the National Famine Monument was ‘a big ordeal’ but we would go through it all again; Water and sewage infrastructure and lack of future planning; The Mayo Greenway extension south to Louisburg passes through the village but there was no consultation; We currently don’t formally comment on local planning issues but in certain circumstances it would be to the communities’ advantage if we did; Despite the numbers of visitors there still remains a lack of quality promotional / educational material relating to the Reek and the surrounding area. [Note: Through a partnership initiative called ‘Helping the Hills’ Mountaineering Ireland has worked with groups like Murrisk to develop a set of principles to guide the management of path erosion in Ireland’s upland areas.]
12 Some Unresolved Issues: In 2015 Reek Sunday (end July) was cancelled for the first time, the ensuing confusion illustrates the lack of management coordination on the mountain and consequently the potential threat to visitors given the unpredictability of the weather and path deterioration; How best to manage succession planning … we have had the experience of seasoned members retiring and with them went knowledge/experience and contacts … so how best to bring in new community volunteers to the committees?; There are still serious local unresolved environmental issues like water and sewage and; Road safety remains a concern.
13 Lessons Learned: Projects bring people together not committees; As a group be broad-minded, tolerant and open to new opinions / ideas; Teenagers are a great voluntary resource but they don’t do meetings / committees; In the past a direct approach to an elected represented usually worked but it is now better to go straight to a senior official of the Council and; We have now got the confidence and goodwill of the community … this takes time.
14 Work Profile: Community Engagement 50%; Administration and Fund raising 30%; Environmental Improvement 10%; Route Development 10%