The picturesque Glenmalure Valley has for the second weekend in a row, suffered extensive levels of rubbish as a result of camping groups descending on the area. Discarded tents, bbqs, clothing, sleeping bags, plastic bags, cans, glass bottles (many broken), human waste, raw meat and other food items, lay strewn across the forest floor for visitors to discover on Sunday.
One site in the Coillte owned forest, stretched over several acres, with the scale of the rubbish likely to require multiple days to remove and with the aid of a truck.
This latest incidents (which involved youths and a separate family unit) follow a much publicised similar event only last weekend, which resulted in over 40 members of the Glenmalure Purte mile Group convening for an emergency clean-up operation in response. The local volunteer group reports that unfortunately incidents such as this are not isolated and that destruction from ‘forest parties’ and irresponsible camping activities is a growing concern as Covid-19 measures impact how holidays and gatherings take place. (Glenmalure PURE mile)
There are also reports that locations in the Dublin Uplands experienced similar incidents over the weekend and popular locations in Wicklow such as Lough Dan and the Blessington Lakes have recorded multiple incidents of rubbish and abandoned picnic and camping equipment left behind by visitors.
Due to travel restrictions and other measures introduced in response to Covid-19, an increase in domestic visitors has been witnessed across much the region – something that is likely to continue for the remainder of 2020.
Understandably, the remote glacier valley of Glenmalure is a popular choice with hillwalkers, campers and visitors, however, unfortunately it seems to also be attracting groups who are treating it in a manner more likely to be witnessed at a large music festival. This challenge extends well beyond that of extensive littering and crosses into the realms of anti-social behaviour that local communities and other visitors are dealing with on a frequent basis.
Not only is the rubbish a blight on the landscape, broken glass creates a public health risk and discarded food items (including both cooked and raw meat) can be very damaging to wildlife – especially when wrapped in plastic.
The environmental impact is not simply one of littering either, as many of the items left abandoned in the midst of fragile ecosystems are plastic based with a life cycle lasting hundreds of years.
It also appears that plastics and fibreglass tent poles were burnt on campfires which create toxic airborne pollutants. Trees have also been cut down and damaged and in one location, evidence of a campfire set in the tree’s roots. Thankfully there was no Forest Fire Risk Warning issued for last weekend, however, campfires in the heart of forest and woodland areas always possess risk and require responsible oversight.
Although the vast majority of people who enjoy camping in the natural setting of the Wicklow and Dublin Uplands follow the Leave No Trace Principles, the mindless actions of a few are endangering fragile and valuable ecosystems and destroying popular locations famed for their natural beauty.
This important issue featured heavily on the Morning Show on East Coast FM today with further media coverage anticipated as photographs and public sentiment continues to emerge.
Wicklow Uplands Council continues to engage with stakeholders across the uplands and to promote responsible access to the countryside centred around the Leave No Trace Principles. www.leavenotraceireland.org.
Photos: John Nolan & Martina Byrne