Friday 15 December 2017

Avoca mines hold a wealth of potential

Avoca Mines committee, Pat Whelan, Marie Merrigan, Com Moore and Henry Alexander beside the Ore pots
Avoca Mines committee, Pat Whelan, Marie Merrigan, Com Moore and Henry Alexander beside the Ore pots

Avoca is synonymous with mining and its rich heritage is visible for everyone to see, from the remains of seven engine houses to the imposing ore pots and the tramway arch that are still standing today divided between East and West Avoca and Cronebane.

It is thought that the mines were in operation as far back as the Bronze Age and, over the centuries, iron, lead and sulphur were all mined from the area. Copper, however, was always the mainstay material and the Avoca Mines thrived, especially between the 1950s and 1980s when eleven million tonnes of copper were yielded.

Today the community, represented by the Avoca Heritage Committee, is battling hard to have the area preserved as a designated heritage site, which would ensure its existence well into the future, and that it would be opened up as a tourist initiative complete with guided walking routes.

With the increase in walking tourism experienced in the country in recent years, the committee, chaired by Marie Merrigan, believes that the 200 acre Avoca Mines site holds a wealth of potential if they could just get permission to proceed with their plans.

'We are a voluntary community group who for the past 18 years have been seeking permission to develop the park . However the Exploration and Mining Division in the Department of Communications Energy and Natural Resources, who have responsibility for the site which is owned by the government, will not give us permission for our project,' Marie explains.

The project is unfortunately caught between two stools as it appears the department responsible for the Avoca Mines is only interested in the 'natural resources' element and so will not sanction or fund any heritage or tourism initiative.

In order to have it transferred to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, it must meet certain health and safety requirements which, at present, it does not.

The committee has done remedial work on three of the seven remaining engine houses as well as on the tramway arch, which is the only authentic drystone mineral tramway arch in the country.

Works have also been carried out on the chimney stack in East Avoca but this is all on a voluntary basis and in small sections.

'What we would like is the permission to tackle one section and get it up to scratch and then move along to the next one. Little by little it could be completed but all we get is a brick wall,' explains committee member Colin Moore.

The committee believes that if their plans came to fruition the benefits to the community would be of huge importance.

'It would preserve the unique heritage of the area, serve as a leisure area for the community and it would extend the duration of tourist visits to Avoca and consequently boost the local economy,' adds Marie.

Wicklow People

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