Coillte

Recreation

Attracting people to nature and supporting local communities

Each year, Coillte welcomes over eighteen million visitors to its forests.  Coillte manages more than 150 recreation sites throughout Ireland including ten forest parks, picnic and parking areas, trail heads and access points. With major landholdings across the country, Coillte owns and manages the longest trail network in Ireland. Our forest properties range from broadleaf forest to sand dunes and conifer forest to upland moorland sites and provide some of Ireland's most extensive and best outdoor recreation opportunities. Walking, hiking , mountain biking, picnics, fishing, nature watching, it's all out there for you to enjoy.

To attract people to nature, Coillte has built Ireland's first extensive recreation portal on the web - Coillte Outdoors. Along with a wide range of recreation related information, www.coillteoutoors.ie  provides information on many kilometres of walking and cycle trails, along with downloadable maps with details of length and grade etc.  

In 2009, Coillte’s recreation programmes were supported by the Department of Community Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, the Irish Sports Council and the Dublin Local Authorities.

Volunteering

One of the Coillte Recreation team objectives for 2009 was to tap into the resource that includes volunteers and other organisations interest in outdoor recreation to maximise their input in helping to manage our forests for recreation. Much of the volunteer development work has been piloted in the Dublin Mountains area but as a model we believe it can be replicated elsewhere and has particular potential in our forest parks and highly used recreation sites.

Volunteer Ranger programme in the Dublin Mountains
The Dublin Mountains Partnership (DMP) was established in 2008 to improve the recreation potential of the public lands in the Dublin Mountains while balancing recreation with the other key objectives of the various land owning organisations in the area. The Dublin Mountains Partnership has a ten year strategic and action plan in place which is now well under way. From its establishment  the DMP has sought to develop the role and contribution of volunteers.  It was recognised that volunteers would have a crucial role to play in delivering a high quality recreation experience in the Dublin Mountains and in seeking to achieve its vision of the Dublin Mountains as "a well resourced and well managed area of significant scenic and high nature conservation value".

2009 has seen a huge increase in community and volunteer involvement in the DMP.  The most notable aspect of this is the start up of the volunteer ranger programme which is run and managed by Coillte. The service has grown to 30 volunteers whose duties include providing assistance to visitors to the DMP area, leading and helping with DMP organised managing events, promoting responsible use through the Leave No Trace programme, assisting with the implementation of new bye laws and providing support to the DMP full-time staff. By year end 2009, the Volunteer Rangers had completed 246 days of work, equivalent to a full time ranger for 1.12 years.

Volunteers for trails
Trail management, reconstruction and maintenance are a major cost associated with managing the recreation resource on Coillte lands. Over the last number of years Coillte has built close ties with the volunteer trail building club – mountain Meitheal and has worked with them on many projects in the Wicklow and Dublin area. In 2009, Mountain Meitheal built the Cruagh mountain access route – over 450m of bog bridge trail, built a new mountain shelter under licence on the Wicklow Way at Paddock Hill, started work on the Fairy Castle route a stone pitched trail and completed the Cruagh Massy link trail (300m) part of the Dublin mountains way.

The DMP has also benefited from the contribution of Google volunteers as part of their global volunteer week. It is estimated that the value of contributions made by different volunteer bodies in the Dublin Mountains Area alone accounted for some 78% of the resources used to deliver this specific project. This clearly illustrates the value for money achieved by the DMP and the benefit of the partnership approach. It also demonstrates that the partnership is showing real innovation and vision in its use of all the resources to deliver better recreation for the citizens and visitors to Dublin.

The Forest as an Educational Resource

In 2009 the recreation team began rolling out permanent orienteering courses at a number of sites across the country. These courses are permanently marked on the ground and teachers or youth leaders can download maps from www.coillteoutdoors.ie. To add value the team developed a series of work books which guide the users through questions and tasks that must be completed at each control. The programme was developed to suit primary and second level students and is linked to the curriculum.

Coillte Outdoors Website Visits Grow By 110%

Between January and December 2009, www.coillteoutdoors.ie had more than 81,800 unique visits. This represents an increase of almost 110% compared to the same period in 2008.  Visitors spend an average of 4 minutes on the site, and the most frequently viewed pages are Upcoming Events and the recreation sites for Coillte’s 10 Forest Parks. The site hosts more than 150 recreation sites with an additional 19 new sites uploaded this year.  We have mapped, graded and described more than 50 additional trails giving us a total of almost 250 mapped and waymarked trails on our estate.

Coillte Outdoors presents a unique platform to promote the company to a wider stakeholder base with an average of 250 visitors daily and has become one of Ireland’s leading outdoor recreation websites.