The future is bright, and it's all down to local people
IT'S not every day that you get to meet the President. And for the volunteers of Farranfore Development Association the trip to Áras an Uachtaráin recently was the icing on the cake for a project with so many ingredients.
Centrally located and a vital cog in Kerry's air, rail and road network, Farranfore is one of the county's busiest villages.
As a stopping point, though, it has typically been overlooked in favour of tourism's heavy hitters.
Enter the Farranfore Development Association and exciting plans are now well underway to regenerate the area, creating a focal point and recreation space for locals, and an attraction for visitors too.
A proposal submitted at the start of the summer by the Development Association was selected by The Kerryman as the Kerry entry in the national Get Involved initiative.
The plan was to regenerate a disused riverside area next to Farranfore Railway Station, an area that had become somewhat of an eyesore, and to turn it into an attractive focal point with native plants and trees.
The community in Farranfore came on board and locals were out complete with shovels and strimmers working on the site during the long summer evenings.
It was a journey The Kerryman was proud to be a part of right from the drawing board and the we continued to highlight and raise the profile of the project every step of the way.
There were many volunteers on board and the generosity of local suppliers and industry persons were key to the project.
Shanahan's Garden Centre and Brosnan's Nurseries generously provided plants and shrubs free of charge.
Ian McGregor of Gortbrack Organic Farm designed the green area, drawing on a wealth of experience as an organic grower and a strong proponent of the value of increased biodiversity.
The trip to Dublin started out simply as a welcome day off for some of these volunteers, time to reflect on the journey to date and, maybe, a chance of recognition in higher quarters.
And there was recognition too - it came in the form of a 'highly commended' merit award.
Words from architect and environmentalist Duncan Stewart were welcome indeed, the TV presenter praising how biodiversity and sustainability were integral to the project. Afterwards, the short trip to Áras an Uachtaráin was further reward.
Handshakes with President Higgins followed by words of encouragement and praise for the efforts to date.
Such days are important, such days help fuel the grassroots efforts. Get Involved may be in its inaugural year but if it continues to reward local initiatives, it may just prove a key ingredient too.
Meanwhile, Farranfore Development Association will continue to work on a project that will regenerate the community for generations to come.
Celebrating Farranfore's key role in transport, a former platform at the local train station is to be transformed. Old platform walls will highlight a unique pictorial history of Kerry transport.
There's much more besides, including a new found sense of community and a spirit of co-operation that has evolved, fuelled by the many fundraisers organised to date.
The future is bright and it's all down to local people and organisations getting involved.