THIS week we are revealing plans for a major marine activity centre in Bantry.
The idea has come about after much consultation with the local community to survey the needs, suggestions and preferred locations for a centre that would make the most of the town’s excellent location alongside one of the country’s most spectacular natural bays.
As the authors of the report have stated, the town is perfectly poised to realise the potential of its environment. Unlike many other locations – not least of all Cork city – the town has not turned its back on the sea but, in fact, embraces it.
Visitors need look no further than the imposing statue of St Brendan the Navigator, standing majestically on the town square with arms outstretched to the sea, offering protection to all who go there, to know that this town acknowledges the value of its situation.
And while there are many local organisations and even businesses making use of the bay, there is certainly more to be made of this wonderful resource, right on the town’s doorstep. ‘Experience’ is the new buzzword for global tourism, along with sustainability. Both of those aspirations for tourism are in abundance in West Cork, and Bantry is no exception.
Indeed, Fáilte Ireland has recently launched its five-year plan for tourism in the region – as reported recently in this newspaper – and has put ‘experience’ tourism at the centre of its focus.
Today’s well-researched tourists want ‘Insta-grammable’ moments and adventures, that they can share on social media with friends and family back home. They want their lives on holiday to mimic their Facebook posts of days filled with fun and laughter, and the more thrilling the adventure, the better.
Bantry Bay has everything that makes West Cork such a popular destination already – a stunning seascape, abundant marine life and welcoming offshore islands. A marine centre offering easy access to the water is a no-brainer.
Of course, the real beauty of the plan is that the centre will be primarily aimed at engaging the local community – getting young and old residents of the area to realise the wonderful fun to be had on the water, and how accessible it can become. Getting tourists in on the action is really an added bonus.
The plan, at this early stage, may be quite ambitious, but it’s a credit to the people of the town that they are ‘thinking big’ from the off. The idea is to have two waterfront buildings at a site near the Abbey cemetery, on the eastern shore of the bay.
The promoters are envisaging a centre with a multipurpose public room, a boat shed, an events space, a kitchen/café, changing areas, storage and drying spaces, a slipway, pontoons, a swimming area, rockpools, a storage area for dinghies, workshops, saunas and a parking area which could possibly accommodate food trucks and provide awnings or temporary shelter, presumably for customers to avail of the services, no matter the weather.
The idea is being driven by the Bantry Marine Activities Centre (Bmac) committee which was established in 2015 and a feasibility study was commissioned earlier this year.
While the final study won’t be unveiled until December 8th, the outline plan is so exciting that the committee had no problem getting the backing of the local community.
Of the 415 respondents, a whopping 95% were positive about it, according to Tara Kennedy of consultant architects AP+E Architects, who have been tasked with driving the study.
If successful, this marine centre will be a massive addition to a town that benefits from a prime location in one of the country’s most scenic regions. But, more than that, it will be held up as a perfect example of what can be achieved when a local community puts its support behind a progressive and enterprising idea, and drives it home.
One can only look on with admiration for those who have helped get the project thus far, and hope that the great adventure for Bantry is only just beginning.