Maharees struggling to cope with tourism demand

Tadhg Evans

The Maharees is in dire need of facilities to cope with the numbers of people visiting the area. That's according to a Maharees Conservation Association (MCA) deputation on behalf of local residents at a Castleisland-Corca Dhuibhne Municipal District meeting.

The deputation, requested by Fianna Fáil Councillor Michael O'Shea, said the tombolo is attractive to 'wild campers' and windsurfers, and is further boosted by a Blue Flag beach and being on the Wild Atlantic Way and Dingle Way. 

The MCA formed in 2016 to tackle the effects of coastal erosion on the area. Promoting sustainable tourism is among its aims.

The MCA explained that conservation works at Magharabeg Cut greatly reduced the number of parking spaces.

There is also no car park to access Brandon Bay/Scraggane Bay.

An MCA map highlighted there are only two official car parks in the region, and also highlighted beach-access points with no safe parking provision.

"A lot of international wind-surfing coaches come here to hold clinics off-season, which is important to the community," said Katherine Syme. 

"They come in big vans and have lots of equipment. They're coming up on the side of the road and bring their stuff through gaps onto the beaches. They love the area but can't understand why they've to trample across dunes to get to the beach."

"Without marketing, we're getting huge numbers visiting, and we're not prepared for them," said Martha Farrell.

"We'd also love some toilet facility... on the Brandon Bay side. The only facility we have is on the blue flag beach (Béal Geal).

"If we had facilities, we could market it as a surfing and eco-tourism destination, and people wouldn't damage the area."

Businessman Micheál Lynch said visitor numbers have declined and that a large number of local pubs, restaurants, shops, and pubs have closed over the years.

Ms Farrell said she doesn't blame KCC for the current headaches but said its support is vital to addressing these issues. She said they don't need a tarmac car park; a field open for parking during peak times would suffice.

The area is located in a Special Area of Conservation, and Cllr O'Shea said: "You cannot move one shovel of sand without activating all departments of the state.

"If we want to promote Kerry, surely, Director [John Breen] you'll have to bring the state's bodies together... to put a working plan in place.

"We're going nowhere if KCC don't take the lead."

"It does require some different thinking," Mr Breen said. "On the issue of motor homes, this is not a displacement issue. All the caravan parks are full anyway.

"It's a unique place, one of the few tombolos in the country, so it needs a unique solution.

"With regard to facilities we need to provide, we don't have land there, so we are dependant on landowners. 

"The first challenge is to ensure we have a car park there for next summer," he said. 

He added that the council would look into what can be done to provide facilities within the area's ecological designations and the legalities of crossing commonage.