The potential of the Mourne/ Ring of Gullion/ Cooley region finally looks set to be unleashed on the masses thanks to a £1.4m European funded project that will be officially be launched next year. With INTERREG funding secured for the project up until summer 2015 the Geotourism project will promote south Down, south Armagh and north Louth as a single entity of interest to academics, outdoor enthusiasts and general tourists. In total five people headed by project manager John Devenny will be employed on the Newry based project which has an EU funded payroll of £165,000.
The difference between the concept of a geopark and a national park is that the former is a non-statutory designation meaning that there would not be any effect on planning. Outlining the background to the project Newry and Mourne District Council’s director of district development Gerard McGivern said: “Work on this project has been ongoing for three years. It is grounded in the Memorandum of Understanding with Louth and is part of the Tourist Development of the region. This will develop the region, our assets and our people. This develops a whole new destination. The project will be looking at walking, trekking, biking, the great outdoors, archaeology, a lot of things link in with it. It will look at sights of geological importance bringing groups here. Building relationships with public business and tourism industry.” Leading the project will be John Devaney who told the Reporter that the potential of the region is undoubted but unexploited. The story of Mourne granite and Newry granite goes back millions of years,” he said. “Newgrange is made from Mourne Granite so are major buildings in London and Rome. The Annalong Cornmill project (which will deliver a Mourne Granite Interpretative Centre) is a separate project but is very relevant to this. It is not just about rocks. We are taking advantage of the beauty first and foremost then looking at other aspects. Anyone who visits Marble Arch the Giants Cause way or the Burren is a geotourist. There will be links between universities in Ireland and beyond, as the project will be looking at sites of geological importance that will attract groups here. We also hope to build positive relationships with the public, businesses and tourism industry.”
24th October 2012