Dublin Mountains Makeover to see 9 forests converted from commercial to recreational use

Work is set to begin this summer on the Dublin Mountains Makeover – a forest transformation project that will be the largest of its kind ever carried out in Ireland.

The makeover will have a positive impact on biodiversity in Ireland and will see nine Coillte forests converted from commercial forestry to recreational use.

The project will be led by Coillte Nature, the not-for-profit branch of Coillte. The nine Coillte forests cited for conversion include: Ticknock; Kilmashogue; Ballyedmonduff; Massy’s Wood; the Hell Fire Club; Cruagh; Tibradden; Barnaslingan; and Carrickgollogan.

Transforming the forests will take time and will still involve machinery, felling and lorries on local roads, and diverting or temporarily closing some trails.

It will be a “slow and careful process, conducted in a way that minimises disruption to today’s recreational users, while locking in benefits for nature and the landscape that will be enjoyed by generations to come”.

Impactful projects

Dr. Ciarán Fallon, director of Coillte Nature, commented on this new venture, saying:

“Coillte Nature has a mandate to undertake impactful projects of scale that create, restore, regenerate and rehabilitate biodiverse habitats across Ireland and managing those habitats for ecological and recreational value in perpetuity in order to maximise the ecosystem services they provide to society for the benefit of everyone – now and into the future.

We’re proud to be collaborating with the Dublin Mountains Partnership on this ambitious and high-profile initiative and look forward to delivering the Dublin Mountains Makeover and ensuring that the people of Dublin enjoy the benefits for generations to come.

The Dublin Mountain forests are unique among the Coillte forest parks as over 600,000 people visit these forests per year, making them some of the most visited outdoor attractions in the country.

Today, these and other privately-owned forests in the area are among the most important recreational sites for a growing urban population seeking fresh air and green space; Coillte’s most popular forest, Ticknock, sees over 550 visits a day.

Until now, Coillte has managed these areas primarily for commercial purposes. The transformation will see a greater emphasis on Continuous Cover Forestry (CCF) and, in areas where this approach isn’t possible, replanting conifer plantations with native woodland.

This will “enhance and create habitats for wildlife, enrich their recreational appeal to people and improve the wider landscape’s aesthetic value”.

The project was developed in collaboration with the Dublin Mountains Partnership, a group that aims to improve the recreational experience for users of the Dublin Mountains, while recognising the objectives and constraints of landowners.

The partner organisations are: Coillte; South Dublin County Council; Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council; Dublin City Council; the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS); and the Dublin Mountains Initiative.

‘Distant concern’

Leslie Moore, of Dublin City Council and chair of the Dublin Mountains Partnership, said: “For over 10 years the Dublin Mountains Partnership has collaborated to open up recreational access to the Dublin Mountains.

“The actions that will be undertaken in 2020 under the Dublin Mountains Makeover represent a significant milestone in achieving that vision and we welcome and wholeheartedly support Coillte Nature in bringing this exciting project to life.”

When the first of Coillte’s Dublin Mountains forests were planted between the 1940s and 1960s, the city was a distant concern. However, the population and urban sprawl has significantly grown since then. Due to Dublin City’s growth and the significance that these forests have for the urban population, it is important now to increase the recreational amenity value.

Using a mixture of management approaches including CCF and native woodland planting (R&R) will create a mosaic of forest types which will increase the species, age and structural diversity of the area.

This will make the forests better for “people and better for nature, ensuring beautiful diverse forests for generations to come”.