TODAY President Michael D Higgins officially opened ‘Beyond the Trees Avondale’ at Avondale Forest Park, which includes a stunning 700 metre treetop walk with a 12 storey high viewing tower.
‘Beyond the Trees Avondale’ is a collaboration between Coillte, Fáilte Ireland and EAK Ireland and cost €19 million.
At the end of the walled garden in Avondale Forest Park, visitors can enter the treetop walk and begin their journey on the elevated boardwalk, which is 23m above the first floor at its highest point, making their way out over the Avonmore River valley.
The treetop walk culminates at the top of a spectacular viewing tower, which reaches 38 metres into the sky. Adventurous visitors also have the option of making their way back down quickly via a 90m slide.
Speaking at the opening, President Higgins said: “In terms of lived experience, may I suggest that places like Avondale House and Forest Park allow us all – people from diverse walks of life, of all ages and backgrounds – to reconnect with nature, to reaffirm its critical position in our lives, perhaps even to commit to taking individual and collective actions to protect it, to tackle declining biodiversity and climate change.
“This could be the greatest impact and legacy of this beautiful forest park which I am so pleased to formally open today.”
Imelda Hurley, CEO, Coillte, said: “We are honoured to welcome President Higgins here today to officially open Ireland’s latest world class visitor destination, Beyond the Trees Avondale, a unique collaboration between Coillte, Failte Ireland and EAK Ireland which offers visitors, young and old, the opportunity to experience the beauty of Avondale and the surrounding Wicklow countryside in a fascinating new way that brings drama and excitement to the simple exploration of the forest.
“Every consideration has been given to sustainability and accessibility in the development of this spectacular visitor destination, and we are very proud to join with Fáilte Ireland and EAK Ireland to welcome Irish and international visitors to go Beyond the Trees here at Avondale.
“Our new forestry vision announced earlier this year aims, among other things, to grow new forests, manage our existing forests for greater carbon capture, deliver valuable wood products and enhance biodiversity. In addition, this vision aims to create more incredible visitor experiences for the enjoyment of our citizens and tourists, with Beyond the Trees Avondale being an outstanding example of a new world class visitor experience on the Coillte estate.”
The treetop walk and viewing tower have been developed by EAK, a German company and an experienced developer of such facilities in Europe.
Bernd Bayerköhler, CEO, EAK said: “In 2009, EAK opened the first treetop walk in Germany. Today, we are delighted to be here for the opening of our twelfth treetop walk in a total of seven European countries.
“Ireland has always been on my list of the most attractive locations for an installation like this. But for such a project in a new country, we needed not just the right place but also the right partners, and we were delighted to partner with the McArdle Family from Carlingford Adventure as our joint venture partner in this project.
“When we were invited by Coillte and Failte Ireland to visit Avondale Forest Park, for me it was immediately clear that this unique Arboretum at this historical location was the place we had been looking for to develop a world class tourist destination in Ireland.”
60 new full and part-time jobs have been created to staff the site, the majority of whom are from the locality. ‘Beyond the Trees Avondale’ expects to attract 200,000 to 250,000 visitors within a full year of opening.
Orla Carroll, Director of Product Development at Fáilte Ireland stated: “Investing in standout attractions is a key element of attracting international visitors to Ireland and encouraging domestic tourists to explore different areas of Ireland.
“Beyond the Trees Avondale is a totally unique world-class addition to the tourism offering in Ireland and will attract thousands of visitors to Wicklow and the wider Ireland’s Ancient East region, driving regional tourism growth and economic benefits for local communities.
“Beyond the Trees has been executed with sustainability at its core, delivering on Fáilte Ireland’s Opening the Outdoors strategic pillar and contributing another exciting focal point in Ireland’s Ancient East that supports our ambition to develop Ireland as an internationally recognised Outdoor Activity destination.”
The new destination also includes a walled garden, seed café, a children’s playground, a sensory garden, a Coillte pavilion area which showcases the history and relevance of Irish forestry and a series of facilities to ensure the overall site is as inclusive as possible to those of all abilities.
Homegrown timber was used to create the innovative timber structures seen at the park. Locally sourced Douglas fir and larch was used for the treetop walk and viewing tower, and the longest spans ever produced from homegrown Sitka spruce are clearly visible in the new Seed Café.