Some €8 million will be invested into the redevelopment of Avondale House and Forest Park to turn it into a state-of-the-art visitor destination.
Coillte, in association with Fáilte Ireland, made the announcement on Monday. The redevelopment project is titled 'A Place for Visionaries' and will consist of interactive education technologies designed to promote learning, new walkway trails comprising of subterranean pathways and tunnels and an elevated timber lattice walkway 460m in length to be erected overlooking the forest canopy and Avonmore River valley. The plans also include a state-of-the-art visitor centre, restaurant and café.
Avondale, once the home of Charles Stewart Parnell, is now owned by Coillte and is considered the birthplace of Irish forestry.
Fergal Leamy, chief executive of Coillte, said; 'We are excited to be embarking upon such an ambitious project that will place Avondale Forest Park as one of the country's leading visitor destinations. Creating a unique space to socialise, enjoy and learn.
'We are committed to protecting the future of Ireland's forestry, and supporting the next generation in understanding the important role trees play in contributing to our environment and national economy. This significant investment is only possible thanks to our continued commercial success. "A Place for Visionaries" will showcase all that Irish forests have to offer, demonstrating some of the leading-edge science and technologies used in the forestry industry today'.
Visitors will be able to explore two main themes; 'At Home with the Parnell's' which will celebrate the life and times of Charles Stewart Parnell at Avondale House and 'The Evolution of Forestry' which will take a retrospective look through the history of the forest park from the 1700's to present day and beyond.
There will be a state-of-the-art visitor centre on site which will include a café and restaurant, which will lead to Coillte's 'Evolution of Forestry' installation and a breath taking 460m lattice walkway providing 360-degree views of the canopy and Avonmore River valley.
It is believed the development will provide a real tourism boost to the area. Currently over 30,000 people visit Avondale each year and it is hoped the re-development will increase this figure to 100,000. 'A Place for Visionaries' is set to open in 2021.
Minister of State for Forestry and Wicklow TD Andrew Doyle has welcomed both the funding and the granting of planning permission by Wicklow County Council, having worked behind the scenes to push forward the project.
'Preparatory work and consultation for this development plan has been taking place for several years which signified the commitment that existed to establish Avondale as a site of national importance with the potential to attract many more visitors to County Wicklow,' said Minister of State Doyle. 'I was delighted to welcome the then Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney to Avondale and have since worked with Minister Michael Creed as well as with Coillte to highlight the unique offering presented by Avondale and to bring forward plans for its redevelopment.
I will be providing input to the detailed design stages when they commence. There is no national forestry library and there is an onus to preserve any information that may be in Avondale on the foundation of the forestry service.
'I am in discussion with Coillte about the shorter term plans also and specifically the need for adequate information and signage around the estate so that visitors can continue to enjoy the park while also being informed about its vision for the future.
'It is important to ensure that Avondale is open for Summer 2019 season and that proper facilities and information will be available to visitors during this time,' said Minister of State Doyle.