ABBEYLEIX bog was lauded as the “vision” for the future of wetlands across Ireland last week.
Last Thursday, the first stage of the boardwalk on the bog was officially unveiled.
Dr John Feehan was on hand to open the boardwalk at the Abbeyleix Manor Hotel. He gave a thought-provoking speech on the future of Ireland’s bogs and the importance of communities taking ownership.
By 2030, 100,000ha of cutaway bog will be available and “its subsequent development will be one of the great reclamation ventures of Europe.” Dr Feehan said that local communities must get involved as Bord na Mona looks at the options for these cutaway bogs.
Abbeyleix bog and the local community’s involvement through the Abbeyleix Bog Project was an example for others to follow.
“The significance of Abbeyleix bog, in broader terms, is that here we have in place the germ of something that needs to spread more widely, a spark that can start a fire, where the community takes control of the bog from which its turf once came, and nurtures it for the other values it represents for that community.”
After the speeches, guests made the short walk down to the bog to unveil a plaque in dedication to local woman Mary Hutchinson, who passed away in 2002. Ms Hutchinson had played an active role in the community effort to preserve the bog. Her husband Christy unveiled the plaque in his wife’s memory.
“It’s the nicest thing that’s happened to Mary or myself in a lifetime. Thanks very much.”
In the Manor Hotel, several speakers from bodies such as the Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment and Bord na Mona spoke on how Abbeyleix bog is the “vision” or “example” for others to follow.
Secretary of Bord na Mona Gerry Ryan said that a key factor in Bord na Mona working with communities was to see a firm commitment locally.
He said that the commitment was clear in Abbeyleix.
“A project like this requires a lot of hard work from a lot of hard people. Tremendous credit is due to the people who got involved and rolled up their sleeves.”
Feargal O’Coigligh, assistant secretary, Department of Arts, Heritage and Environment, said that the Abbeyleix Bog Project was the “vision” for the preservation of wetlands.
Tadhg O’Mahony of the EPA added: “I don’t think we have to look too far from home to see special gems of nature and I think behind us here we have it here.”
Laois Partnership provided in excess of €21,500 in funding for the boardwalk, as well as rural social scheme workers.
Chairperson of Abbeyleix Bog Project Gary O’Keeffe expressed the group’s gratitude for the support and cooperation of various agencies.
“We started 14 years ago and have come a long way,” he said. “It’s one of the great success stories; we think of how communities working together can achieve something amazing.”
The boardwalk was the work of a team of volunteers, with all funding received going on materials.
Mr O’Keeffe thanked all who assisted the bog project, including local volunteers, Telford’s, Portlaoise Men’s Shed and the management of Abbeyleix Manor Hotel.
Special word of thanks was extended to Abbeyleix Bog Project development coordinator Emma Seale, who is shortly leaving the group, and fellow project member Chris Uys
“Without Chris Uys input at the beginning of this project, it probably would not have tipped over,” said Mr O’Keeffe.