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President Higgins opens €19m Avondale Forest Park project

President Michael D. Higgins with his wife Sabina and Imelda Hurley, CEO, Coillte. Photo: Naoise Culhane

Beyond the Trees Avondale expects to attract 200,000 to 250,000 visitors in its first full year of opening

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Sports & Parks

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14 July 2022 | 0

President Michael D Higgins officially opened ‘Beyond the Trees Avondale’, a new visitor destination in Avondale Forest Park, Co. Wicklow.

Developed in partnership between Coillte, Fáilte Ireland and EAK Ireland in Avondale Forest Park in Co. Wicklow, the site combines a stunning 700 metre treetop walk with a 12-storey high viewing tower, created for the project by EAK Ireland.

The Beyond the Trees Avondale experience will be further enhanced in the autumn when restoration work on Avondale House, the home of Charles Stewart Parnell, will be completed and the house will open to visitors.

This 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.

The project was constructed with sustainability at its core using fully renewable and climate friendly wood products. 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.

This €19 million project at Avondale is part of Coillte’s strategy to create more world class visitor destinations and increase recreation spaces nationally, and will encourage international and domestic visitors to stay longer and spend more in Wicklow and the wider Ireland’s Ancient East region, driving economic and employment opportunities for local communities.

A total of 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.

Accessibility

The Treetop Walk and Viewing Tower visitor experience is 100% accessible and our new visitor centre has been designed to ensure universal access, featuring entry ramps and an accessible lift in the building.

The sensory garden located in the courtyard area is designed to be a welcoming space to both children and adults especially those who have sensory processing challenges, including autism, physical disabilities, and dementia.

In his remarks to formally open Avondale House and Forest Park, President Michael D.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.”

Unique forestry heritage

“Avondale is a very special site for Coillte, both because of its unique forestry heritage and the historical connection to the Parnell family,” said Imelda Hurley, CEO, Coillte. “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 Failte 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.”

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