Ballyhoura Heritage & Environment awarded funds from Castlepook Wind Farm Development & Coillte

Next Monday will see a special cheque presentation at the Ballyhoura Offices in Kilfinane for funding of the development of the Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails. This generous donation comes from both the ESB Castlepook Wind Farm Development and Coillte. As a result of the construction of Castlepook Wind Farm, alternative bike trails were constructed in early 2014 and this was part funded by the project, providing an alternative to the ‘Castlepook loop’ bike trails. These additional trails, which are approx-imately 3.8 km in length, will remain following completion of the wind farm, providing a significant permanent enhancement of the trail system. The Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails, which are free to use, feature over 100km of cross-country single track trails, and is regarded as the finest mountain bike trail network of its kind in Europe.

The Ballyhouras have become a focus for various recreation activities in recent years, notably due to the development of the Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails by Coillte in partner-ship with Ballyhoura Heritage and Environment Ltd. A number of exciting events transpired this year and Ballyhoura are delighted at the attendance generated by each one. The Ballyhoura Beast and the Enduro Mountain Bike Championships are just some of the fantastic events that were responsible for bringing visitors into the area, providing a major boost to the local economy.

However, the finest achievement for Ballyhoura Heritage and Environment this year took place at the European Sports Tourism Awards. The awards delivered a proud moment for the Mountain Trail Bike Park, which last year staged the European Mountain Bike Championships, as it took the honours in one of the top categories, the European Sports Tourism Venue of the year. The venue faced stiff competition from Bike Park Ireland, UL Sport, Fota Island Resort, and AIT Sport. The trails are widely known as being an endurance test for any experienced biker, making it the ideal choice to host the Ballyhoura Beast European Adventure Race Finals last August. Furthermore, it hosted the European Mountain Bike Championships which took place in June 2014. The current economic value to the Ballyhoura region is estimated at €3 million per year and the forecast increase in visitors has the potential to grow this to €5 million.

Ballyhoura Heritage and Environment would like to extend sincere thanks to both Limerick and Cork County Councils for their financial assistance in developing these trails. Ballyhoura Heritage received bridging finance of €80,000 from Limerick County Council and a further €80,000 from Cork County Council to ensure that the trails develop into one of Europe’s leading mountain bike destinations. This funding will now be repaid on receipt of €160,000 from ESB Wind Development and Coillte next Monday. The county councillors involved were highly supportive of the project.

Cllr Liam Galvin stated he was quite happy to see the loan of €80,000 approved and described the Ballyhoura mountain bike trails as a “great asset to the public”. Cllr David Moloney commented, “The Ballyhoura mountain bike trails are a huge success story attracting a large number of domestic, national and international tourists to the region.”

This investment is a partnership of Ballyhoura Heritage and Environment Ltd, Limerick County Council, Cork County Council, Coillte, ESB and Ballyhoura Development Ltd through the RDP/LEADER programme.

The Castlepook Wind Farm is a joint venture between ESB and Coillte which will be constructed in the Ballyhoura Forest in Co. Cork. This joint venture between ESB and Coillte is an equal partnership. The Castlepook Wind Farm development was granted planning permission by An Bord Pleanála in 2013 and comprises of 14 wind turbines. Each wind turbine will have an overall maximum height dimension of 126 meters. The wind farm will have a capacity to produce electricity which will supply the equivalent of approximately 17,000 households. The wind farm will connect to the existing electricity distribution system at Charleville via an underground 38kV cable that will be installed as part of the wind farm construction works. It is planned to start construction of the Castlepook Wind Farm in January 2016.