Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Questions (180)

Catherine Murphy

Question:

180. Deputy Catherine Murphy asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if he will outline his policy surrounding the charging of members of the public to gain access to State owned forests; if he will consider issuing guidelines in respect of same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [29540/13]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

Coillte Teoranta was established as a private commercial company under the Forestry Act 1988 and day-to-day operational matters, such as the management of the State’s forestry estate, are the responsibility of the company.

I understand that Coillte welcomes responsible users who practice ‘Leave No Trace’. Since its establishment in 1989, Coillte has operated an Open Forest Policy which allows permissive access on foot. I am advised that, under this policy, the general public are permitted and welcome to use forest lands for non-commercial, informal, recreational purposes subject to visitors taking due care for their safety, having consideration for other forest users and respecting the nature of Coillte's commercial operations. This policy is applicable to the individual user and small user groups. The company also advises that, where car parks are in place in Coillte forests generally access is free of charge.

Coillte advise that it has entry fees for vehicular access to its forest parks. The company has also advised that a fee of €5 per car applies but that a Coillte Outdoors Access Card provides unlimited access to all their forest parks for the period of one year and can be purchased online at Coillteoutdoors.ie with a new card costing €40, a renewal €35 and a replacement €20. I understand that the Coillte Outdoors Access card will allow entry though the entry barrier at Dún a Rí Forest Park (Cavan), Farran Forest Park (Cork), Gougane Barra Forest Park (Cork), Ards Forest Park (Donegal), Donadea Forest Park (Kildare), Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Centre (Limerick), Curragh Chase Forest Park (Limerick), Rossmore Forest Park (Monaghan) and Avondale Forest Park (Wicklow). It does not permit entry to the car-park at Lough Key Forest Park. I am advised that Coillte has no plans to remove entry fees for vehicular access to its forest parks but that it should be noted that pedestrian access is free.