A leading maritime figure at Ireland's biggest boating centre on Dublin Bay has called on Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council to plan for the appropriate development of the harbour as a maritime leisure centre.
Expert advice on strategic advice and an economic plan for Dun Laoghaire harbour on Dublin Bay is being sought by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown as the search for a guaranteed revenue source for the harbour comes over four years after Stena Line withdrew its ferry service to and from Holyhead in Wales – ending a sea link dating back to 1835.
"The assumption of control of Dun Laoghaire harbour by Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLR) is a golden opportunity to develop a maritime leisure facility that could be the best in the world," says master mariner Paddy Boyd who previously held Chief Executive roles in both Irish Sailing and Canada Sailing.
"Not only is this an opportunity to address some of the deficiencies that currently exist such as the lack of an all-tide accessible slipway but also to commence the process of developing the support facilities that are appropriate to a harbour of this nature."
Boyd's call is supported by the recently formed Dun Laoghaire Harbour Representative Group, which has called on DLR to:
- Preserve and protect the unique architectural and historical heritage of Dún Laoghaire Harbour for all of the people.
- Avoid piecemeal developments
- Focus on the best interests of the community and the town.
- Ensure that community access will be to the forefront of all future developments. This should
include public slipways for boats, access for walkers and other public leisure activities.
- Ensure that the piers and the protected structures are maintained to the highest standards.
- Ensure that the Harbour, and all structures, are maintained to the highest standards.
Boyd added, "This is a time for all stakeholders to develop a vision for the future that is not constrained by the piecemeal development that has taken place to date. The vision should look at the re-purposing of structures and facilities currently in existence. For example, why couldn't the coal harbour accommodate a heritage harbour, or the ferry terminal provide office and workshop space to the more than 50 organisations who currently provide access or supports to the maritime community."
In common with many stakeholders, Boyd does not believe that the future for Dun Laoghaire will encompass a return of a ferry service. "If you will pardon the pun" he said, "that ship has sailed. The construction of the port tunnel, the advances in docking systems and the lack of enthusiasm for heavy vehicles in the area make the return of a ferry service very unlikely."
Next Steps for Dun Laoghaire Harbour
Even before the completion of the piers in Dun Laoghaire in the 1840s, recreational marine activities were well established in Dublin Bay and have played an important role. The maritime historian Hal Sisk has declared that Dublin Bay is the cradle of yacht racing, recognising its role in the development of competitive sailing with particular emphasis on the evolution of one-design yacht racing.
As mailboats, car ferries and high-speed catamarans and passenger liners have come and gone maritime leisure has been a constant in the harbour, which provided initially, sheltered mooring space during the season, and latterly year-round access enabling the season to be extended accordingly.
Now that the ownership has transferred to Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council (DLR), and thus effectively into the hands of the citizens of the county, a great opportunity has arisen to further develop this public amenity as a leisure facility for the benefit of the county's populace.
The largest watersports centre in Ireland does not have:
- a publicly accessible slipway that can be safely utilised at all states of the tide
- a base for allied marine services
- a public boat-hire service
- DLR needs to show more commitment to the Large Scale Sports Infrastructure fund application for stage one funding for a National Watersports Campus
DLR should clearly signal their commitment to these principals by offering long-term rental space at a reasonable cost to the more than 40 organisations engaged in maritime leisure in the Harbour. These groups organise activities that engage in more than 2,000,000 hours of maritime leisure accessed from the harbour.
The potential to develop Dun Laoghaire Harbour based on maritime leisure is clearly there, perhaps no other single site offers this potential which now needs to be exploited in a consistent manner.
Boyd says Dun Laoghaire has the capacity to become:
- A major maritime heritage harbour based around its role in the development of Yacht Racing (example Lorient, France)
- An employment centre, based on the maritime services necessary to support a thriving watersports industry (example Hamble, UK)
- A public water-access facility with safe all-tide access (example Weymouth, UK)
- A visitor destination with seafront food and beverage services (Howth)
- The jewel in the crown of one of Ireland's most progressive counties
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