Friday 19 January 2018

Sky's the limit for tourism in region

Margaret Roddy

Tourism in north Louth has reached new heights with the opening of the SkyPark zip adventure park in Carlingford last Thursday.

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny officially opened the exciting new facility which according to managing director Tom McArdle has the potential to draw more than 40,000 visitors a year.

The sun shone as politicians, business and tourism leaders and local people gathered for the official opening of Ireland's biggest zip-line adventure park, comprising more than 70 challenges across four different courses on an eight-acre site.

The Taoiseach was given a tour of the impressive facility and casually chatted and posed for photographs with those in attendance.

This fun and exciting family attraction was developed by the McArdle family using their 25 years' experience at Carlingford Adventure Centre with guidance and financial assistance from Louth Leader.

Tom McArdle, MD of SkyPark, said the opening of the new facility was 'a dream come true' and 'the proudest day of my life'.

It was, he said, the culmination of '25 years of trials and tribulations, sweat and tears and many happy times'.

He recollected that Carlingford was the first place in Ireland to introduce the sport of windsurfing, and that what started out as a hobby for him turned into a business.

He also recalled how the inspiration for the business came from his wife Mary who had taken their son Thomas junior to Achill on holiday and had seen how outdoor adventure sports were popular there and she was sure such an idea would work in Carlingford.

The seed of the idea was planted and with support from the International Fund for Ireland, the Carlingford Adventure Centre was born.

It had grown from humble origins in a shed at the harbour employing 15 staff to today's operation with 60 full-time and seasonal staff and 23,000 visitors a year, which he anticipated would increase to 46,000 by 2019.

There is also the language school which attracts students from several countries, with the guard of honour provided for An Taoiseach formed by students from Italy, France, Spain, Mexico and Ireland.

He estimated that Carlingford Adventure Centre and SkyPark will bring €7 million to the coffers of Carlingford's shops, restaurants, pubs, arts and crafts shops and pointed out that at least 10 new businesses had opened their doors in the past year.

He said Carlingford was now a major tourism attraction and there was a great air of well-being and pride in the village. They'd had 1,400 visitors to SkyPark when the facility opened its gates for free the previous Sunday and he thanked all who had supported the project.

Mr Frank O'Brien of Louth Leader said it was 'a great day of celebration' and described SkyPark as a landmark project that puts down the marker for any future projects seeking funding in Carlingford and Cooley.

The Argus

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