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Matthews – Wicklow Mountains trails assessment is a vital study

Green Party Minister Malcolm Noonan and Deputy Steven Matthews attended an onsite inspection and briefing on the comprehensive Wicklow Uplands Paths Assessment report. Speaking after the event Deputy Matthews said ‘our Wicklow Mountains National Park is a fragile ecological treasure that must be protected from over grazing and excessive recreational use. The wild and natural beauty of our uplands is what attracts so many users but many of the popular trails are across sensitive and fragile land that is being heavily eroded in places'.

The large scale study which covered 167km of 50 paths over 350 sections, was caried out by expert path surveyor, Chris York from ‘Walking the Talk’ and was supported by a range of stakeholders including the NPWS, the Wicklow Uplands Council, Mountain Meitheal, Mountaineering Ireland and Wicklow County Council.

‘The presentation provided us with good research to decide how best to protect sensitive areas, manage tourism sustainably and rehabilitate areas that have been impacted. There is real damage being done and it has severe implications for ecology, water quality, climate and for hill farmers and recreational users so we need to act collaboratively to manage and stop the damage. The Wicklow Uplands Council state that, aside from managed trails such as the Wicklow Way, there is an extensive network of informal paths that criss-cross the Wicklow and Dublin Uplands, connecting routes, peaks and popular points of interest for hikers and walkers. Evolved through common usage over the decades, the impact of the ever-increasing footfall on these paths contribute to soil erosion and the loss of vegetation and sensitive habitats. Often scarring the landscape, the paths frequently cross fragile peat soil, leading to a loss of carbon and water runoff that affects the water quality of upland streams’.

‘I look forward to acting on this research and working with my Green Party colleague, Minister Noonan who has shown more commitment and funding to protect nature than ever seen before. The NPWS is being supported and restructured to address our biodiversity loss and to manage our Wicklow Mountains National Park. There is a fantastic collaboration between all the uplands stakeholders and there is no more time to waste in protecting nature, water quality and restoring our bogs and peatland carbon sinks’, concluded Deputy Matthews.



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