County Heritage Plans

The GSI may be able to provide some input directly from the Irish Geological Heritage Programme and from other Programme areas, but it is severely constrained by resource limitations.

Therefore, as in the case of Groundwater Protection Schemes or Minerals Potential Mapping projects already being undertaken by GSI in collaboration with various counties, it is suggested that Local Authority funding, in full or in part, could facilitate employment of a contract geologist to complete a geological heritage inventory and management plans for sites of importance, and/or promotional material for raising awareness of the geological heritage within the Local Authority area. In some cases this could be a small investment over a relatively short period to achieve significant progress. Funding could provide for a priority survey of the county's geological heritage, which might require only a matter of weeks, depending on size and geological complexity of the county. A pilot project of this type commenced with County Sligo during the summer of 2003, and of the six ensuing reports, the County Clare Report was used as a supporting document for the UNESCO Geoparks application. All completed audits of County Geological Sites to date can be downloaded here.

An excellent approach is to ensure that the Local Authority Heritage Forum includes a geologist or, at the very least, someone with relevant knowledge and experience of earth science. A locally based geologist, perhaps a retired professional with time to devote to the Forum, would be an ideal solution. The IGH Programme may be able to advise on individual people who may be contacted.

You may also have sites of geological interest that are so special in a county, national or international scale that you wish to develop key actions specific to them that help reach one of the Heritage Plan objectives. An example is the Valentia Island Tetrapod Trackway site in County Kerry, that has certainly required special attention in terms of road infrastructure, visitor facilities, access and interpretation.

Whilst each county has its own geology, and this varies considerably across the country, there are some generic issues that we suggest a Heritage Plan should consider and address:

publish an explanatory booklet about the geology of the county, with publicly accessible highlights as the focus;

identify and promote the geological interest of some key sites in the county where public access and amenity are already provided for. This could include simple explanatory leaflets or signboards;

consider a geological trail at appropriate sites;

if there is a County Museum, plan to provide or improve the geological content of displays, and for representative collections to be more comprehensive;

ensure that any supported publications on other aspects of heritage or areas within the county include some reference to the geological foundation if appropriate e.g. walking guides;

compile a comprehensive inventory of scientific papers relating to the geology and geomorphology of the county;

focus on any unique cultural geological issues in your county (and this is where a funded priority survey would also help) - things that are distinctive to your county because of the geological foundation. Examples might be distinctive landforms of the county, the Carlow 'fence', vernacular architectural styles, field wall styles, mining or quarrying history, etc;

you could make use of developing outreach efforts amongst geologists to support your own programme of activities or educational efforts. For example, you could try to ensure that a geological guided walk, lecture or display or other activity is included in Heritage Week, visit also the Heritage Council website, Science Week or Geology Week / Geoparks Week events in the county;

you could promote the INTO/Heritage Council "Heritage in Schools Scheme" for Heritage specialists to visit primary schools and promote geological outreach in general through the Irish Geodiversity Forum or ES2K;

don't forget that many seascapes are also geological sites of importance and if you can link the two elements of heritage effectively it enhances the value of both;

GSI can be a partner in an action such as that in the Sligo Heritage Plan: "Provide advice on best heritage practice regarding quarry rehabilitation" and also the production of the booklet "Landscapes, Rocks and Fossils, the Geological Heritage of County Sligo";

you could endeavour to engage with the Extractive industry in your county to provide funding for small projects for interpretation, access or education about the geological foundation to all our lives. Examples of good practice are illustrated in the GSI/ICF quarrying guidelines;

in any measures to address issues relating to architectural heritage, heritage gardens and parks and archaeological monuments don't forget that they often have a cultural geological component in siting, design, materials or other ways, which may offer a more integrated way of looking at the heritage;

whilst there has been some negative reaction and bad press amongst farmers and landowners to SAC and NHA designation, the Heritage Plan offers an opportunity to raise awareness of the societal value of such nature conservation measures. It would be a good idea to have an action such as "to support National Parks and Wildlife and the GSI in the consultation and publication of management plans for geological NHAs". This could of course be a wider action involving more organisations and designations but would be beneficial.