ONE of West Cork’s most iconic tourist attractions – the Beacon in Baltimore – is in desperate need of a makeover.
That’s according to the local tidy towns committee who have – in an act of desperation – set up a petition to highlight the need to have the signal tower painted a brilliant white.
The beacon – which was originally built as a navigational tool to mark the entrance to Baltimore harbour – is currently so dirty that the grey outline is barely visible under cloud cover.
With an election looming, Bebhinn Marten, the Tidy Towns chairperson, said the committee decided to make this an issue.
‘To raise awareness we put petition forms in most businesses from Baltimore to Skibbereen and on Monday, May 13th we formally presented the signed documents to Cork County Council,’ she said.
‘It is not in the nature of the Tidy Towns to interfere in nautical matters but we felt we had no option but to highlight the issue after meeting nothing but prevarication and delay over the last four years.
‘It was out of sheer frustration that we took this course of action.
‘No one – not Irish Lights, Fáilte Ireland, who are promoting it as a lead attraction on the Wild Atlantic Way, or Cork County Council – is taking responsibility for it.’
The chairperson said: ‘Everyone is passing the buck. What they don’t seem to realise is that the Beacon is as important to us as Notre Dame is to the people of Paris.
‘It is one of those extraordinary places that people feel attached to. It is a natural wonder and a favourite spot for locals and tourists alike. There’s no end to the number of people who get engaged there.’
In the past, Bebhinn said Irish Lights took responsibility for having it painted and even the Council sent out staff with ladders, buckets and paintbrushes.
‘It was all in a day’s work,’ she said, ‘but now there’s health and safety and an insistence that the job should done from the safety of a scaffold.’
The cost of building a scaffold around the 50ft Beacon, which is perched on the top of a 160ft cliff, has been estimated at €10,000.
With a wintertime population of around 342, it is unlikely that the cost can be borne by the community, but that hasn’t stopped them campaigning to have it repainted this year.
Bebhinn said the Beacon – in its present form – may have been built as a nautical day-mark circa 1849, but it has come to mean so much more to the people of West Cork.
‘It represents different things to different people – it is a totem, a talisman, and a thing of beauty.
‘Its location, overlooking the southern entrance to Baltimore Harbour, also makes it instantly recognisable, and one of the region’s most iconic tourist attractions. It deserves so much more than to be neglected in this way,’ added Bebhinn.