The ‘Save Ballymartle Woods’ campaign hosted a ‘Ramble in the Woods’ last Sunday 10 April. This family friendly event was an opportunity for like-minded people and the community at large to come together in support of saving 22 acres (20%) of pristine woodland at Ballymartle, Riverstick from private sale. The event showcased the woods, walkway, rich biodiversity and what is at stake for the community.
A local group of volunteers who came together in November 2021 achieved a win when the sale was officially 'paused', following an in-person consultation with Coillte on 31 January. However, the sale process itself remains undisclosed. The opaque process and scant community consultation in this reckless disposal of 22 acres of public land does nothing to bolster public confidence. The sale price of the land and number of bidders remains unknown along with what safeguards are in place to address environmental impact, or a possible re-sale by the purchaser.
The community is clear and unambiguous in their call to stop the sale and for decisive and constructive action on environmental protection, biodiversity, and the conservation of this vital local amenity.
However, much progress has been made in recent months with the commencement of a footpath linking the village to the wood in August 2021. Thanks to collaboration with Cork County Council, the roadside footpath is currently near completion along the 600 metres of the R600 from Riverstick Village to Ballymartle Woods. Its full completion will allow a safe route and connectivity between the village and community access through the woods to the far side of Riverstick Village coming out on the L-3206 road creating a 3km loop. In addition, the creation of a new 1.6km loop incorporating the Coillte 22 acre site for sale linking to the existing walkway would create a full perimeter extended woodland walk, and further enhance this natural community amenity.
The wood has been a lifeline for the people of Riverstick and neighbouring villages and towns - including many visitors from across Cork County throughout the pandemic. Riverstick itself has no other public recreational amenity, apart from the GAA pitch. There is no children’s playground, park, nor any public walkways and the woods have provided a much-needed space for children to play in, and for walkers of all ages to exercise and enjoy nature and the mental and physical well-being that brings.
Against the back drop of the current government consultation on the future of forestry in Ireland and the climate crisis, the issue at hand (sale of public land without consultation and deforestation) in Riverstick has also unfortunately been experienced in other towns and villages in Cork County. This necessitates a call for genuine engagement and partnership to tackle climate emergency at a local level. Communities now demand and expect more. In line with Cork County Council's Climate Adaptation Strategy 2019-2024 and overarching commitment towards a low carbon, climate resilient and sustainable environment, there is now an urgency for elected representatives and communities to be mutually supportive and work together on these issues for us and for the habitat we need to preserve.
‘Save Ballymartle Woods’ group are calling on public representatives and Coillte to support the clear wish of the Riverstick community (1876 signatures as of 4 April) to stop this private sale and preserve the integrity of the wood for all those who will visit the woods now and in the future.
Facebook page ‘Save the Ballymartle Woods’ accessible here: https://www.facebook.com/riverstickwalkwaycommittee/
Sign petition, Save Ballymartle Woods: https://bit.ly/3BblwZL
Email us at [email protected]
Photo: John Allen