A PETITION against the planned sale by Coillte of 22 acres of Ballymartle Woods, just outside Riverstick, has already gained almost 1,000 signatures in just a short few days since it was set up.
The petition on change.org is calling for a halt to the sale of part of the woods which adjoins the main Cork/Kinsale R600 route.
Both locals and public representatives have expressed concerns about the plans by the State-owned company to sell off part of the woodland for a guide price of €120,000.
Sen Tim Lombard said that the woods are a fantastic amenity used widely by the community in both Riverstick and Belgooly.
‘Woodland areas like this were a Godsend to locals during the Covid lockdowns and my own family were very glad to use the area during this time and it remains a very popular amenity for walking,’ Sen Lombard said. ‘This forestry plantation should not be put up for sale without public consultation. I have written to Coillte and asked them to immediately begin this consultation process. Amenities such as this are needed in all communities at a time when we are encouraging people to spend time outdoor for physical and mental well-being.’
Social Democrats TD Holly Cairns raised the matter in the Dáil last week also and said that the local community are ‘rightly concerned’ that they might lose the natural amenity.
Local Fianna Fáil Councillor Sean O’Donovan said he is very disappointed to see part of these woods going up for sale and said he is calling on Cork County Council to purchase the lands to ensure that it is kept for the community.
‘I have a motion down for our next Municipal District meeting on Thursday week asking Cork County Council to save these lands from commercial buyers,’ said Cllr O’Donovan.
A Coillte spokesperson said: ‘Coillte was originally approached by an interested party seeking to purchase nine hectares of land from the forest property at Ballymartle with a view to potentially creating a woodland accommodation and recreational offering which would increase visitor numbers to the area and support local businesses and communities. Other interested parties have subsequently contacted Coillte.’
It added: ‘The existing walking trails ... are not included in the proposed area for sale and would be completely unaffected were the sale to proceed. Coillte understands the area would remain under forest were the sale to proceed.’