This recreational area of rare natural beauty has an extraordinary ecosystem and serves as home to a huge diversity of seabirds, waterfowl, songbirds and some of the rarest species of bird to be found on this island such as the little tern and the osprey. This range of diversity is also reflected in the flora of the region, which, thanks to the milder sea climate, bursts into bloom each year in a kaleidoscope of colour not normally seen in our countryside. The Murrough, also, is a linear park stretching for miles along the margins of the bay, which has been used by walkers, joggers, cyclists, boaters and onshore anglers for generations past. It is a recreation area of which any town might well be proud and which had the potential to serve as a great attraction for tourists and nature lovers. The older residents of Wicklow will remember the playing pitches and sports grounds. But this area has been under serious threat from all sides during the past half-century or more.

Threats to the Murrough.

The natural erosion from wind and wave has been cutting away relentlessly at the water’s edge – up to one metre per year, while our local planning authorities have allocated extensive areas for accommodating industry, offices, warehousing, sewage treatment, etc. These enterprises could easily and more effectively have been situated on any of the approach roads to Wicklow Town; was it really necessary to situate them in an amenity area such as this? This ill-advised decision certainly created huge traffic-flow problems for our town.

Impact on recreational use.

A former land-owner from the area once fenced off a section of the Murrough between the railway line and the sea, which resulted in the County Council initiating court proceedings. The Judge ordered that the fence should be removed forthwith and declared that the public had the right to roam in that region. The public, traditionally, also walked along the eastern side of the lake, which borders on the town. A large section of that area, since 2005, has been fenced right down to, and along the high-water mark. Indeed, some sections of the Murrough have been used as dumps and for landfill while another area has served as an extensive gravel quarry. At the moment Iarnrod Eireann has used very heavy machinery to place high fencing, sometimes well away from the rail line and in close proximity to the gravel beach. Apart from the obstruction that this presents to walkers, it has resulted in large areas having been denuded of their natural vegetation, which no doubt will further hasten the process of erosion.

Our hopes for the Murrough

Nature has bestowed on us this beautiful linear parkland but it appears that we have placed very little value on it. Wicklow Town has now expanded more than threefold, but to date not one extra square inch has been set aside for parkland. The Irish Heart Foundation have established Sli na Slainte - walking routes, around many of the towns of Ireland in order to encourage a healthy lifestyle and combat the increasing problem of obesity, but this would involve the co-operation of our local authorities; is it too much to hope that this might be forthcoming? We would like to draw attention to the fact that this area is covered by National and European protection designations such as ‘Special Protection Area’, ‘Special Area of Conservation Candidate’, Proposed National Heritage Area’ and ‘Flora Protection Order’. Accordingly, we would also make an appeal to call a halt to any further inappropriate development or destruction of this sensitive area and would ask that steps be taken to ensure that all traditional walkways along the shoreline and around the lakes are safeguarded and restored where necessary.