The Joyce Country and Western Lakes aspiring geopark project made a new start in Tourmakeady recently with the employment of full-time staff. The work is possible due to funding from the Rural Regeneration and Development Fund in the Department of Rural and Community Development and Project Ireland 2040.
After 10 years of heroic volunteer work, a €1.19 million project led by Geological Survey Ireland, started with the employment of 3 full-time staff. Michael Hegarty, Geopark Manager, and Dr Benjamin Thébaudeau (Geopark Geologist) will be based in Tourmakeady, while Amrine Dubois Gafar (Project Geologist) will be based in Geological Survey Ireland in Dublin. A Tourism Officer, funded by Údarás na Gealtachta, will join the project team in Tourmakeady shortly.
The aim of the project is to develop a geopark in the area surrounding Joyce Country on the Galway-Mayo border, and Loughs Mask, Carra and Corrib, with the intention of applying for full UNESCO Global Geopark status. Geoparks are places of internationally important geology which are managed with a holistic concept of protection, education and economic development. The status carries no additional planning restrictions. There are 3 UNESCO Global Geoparks on the island of Ireland; Copper Coast in Co Waterford; Burren & Cliffs of Moher, Co Clare; and Marble Arch Caves in Co Fermanagh and Co Cavan. Joyce County & Western Lakes could achieve UNESCO status in the next few years if the work is progressed as anticipated.