News 2017

Title:  Spraypaint vandalism in the Cooley Mountains
Date:  25/08/2017

Large Cooley  

‘It’s graffiti and the people who did this are not welcome’, the words of farmer Matthew McGreehan as he opened a meeting in Glenmore, at the heart of the Cooley Mountains, to discuss a proliferation of yellow arrows spray-painted along the ridge above. The meeting was prompted by a Facebook post on the 14th of August by local hillwalker Derek Watters.

Derek highlighted that a 17km route between Flagstaff and Carlingford had been marked with yellow arrows in autumn 2016. With this new wave of marking between the Windy Gap and Carlingford there could now be as many as 1000 yellow arrows, some only a few metres apart. A single 100 metre stretch was marked with 20 arrows; clearly excessive and unnecessary.

A meeting was called by Matthew McGreehan, a local hillfarmer who is also Chair of the Louth IFA’s Rural Development Committee, for Friday 18th August. Despite the short notice and the holiday season more than 40 people attended, including many hillwalkers, along with cyclists, people involved in tourism, local farmers and two local councillors. A member of the Gardaí was present and said that they are treating the vandalism as a matter of concern.

It was clear from the comments at the meeting that this type of marking on the Cooley Mountains is not acceptable to either landowners or recreational interests, primarily because it takes from the beauty of a special landscape. Many of those in attendance were keen to see the markings removed and willing to help in doing so. Matthew agreed that it would be great if the arrows could be removed, but explained that as the mountains are designated as a Special Area of Conservation, that nothing should be done until advice is received from the National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS). A meeting with NPWS is due to take place in the coming week.

It appears the arrows may be associated with a challenge event on the mountains. The attendance included runners who made it clear that most events on the hills involve no marking whatsoever, with route-finding being integral to the challenge. Helen Lawless from Mountaineering Ireland agreed that there are many ways to organise an event without the need for marking, and where marking is required that temporary marking such as removable flags could be used. Helen circulated a protocol adopted last year by the Mourne Outdoor Recreation Forum which explicitly states that ‘spray paint should not be used due to the general opinion that it was an environmental and visual problem - even chalk based paints’.

Shane Reenan, who operates an activity tourism business based on the Cooley Peninsula, emphasised how important the natural environment of the Cooley Mountains is for tourism, and the adverse impact that the marking would have on domestic and overseas visitors. He also welcomed the way in which the community was coming together to stop the graffiti. 

Matthew McGreehan took the opportunity to tell the gathering about plans to apply for a locally-led agri-environment project in the Cooley Mountains, to reward farmers for improving the environmental condition of the hills and protecting water quality by actions such as reducing the spread of bracken. Projects such as this are likely to align with Mountaineering Ireland’s vision that Ireland’s mountain landscapes will be valued and protected as environmental, cultural and recreational assets. It is also timely as the Heritage Council and the Irish Uplands Forum move forward with plans to establish a network of upland partnership groups.

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