Killarney National Park is one of Ireland’s natural treasures. An unspoiled habitat of lakes, mountains and unique wildlife, the Park attracts droves of tourists and visitors each year.
Invasive rhododendrons, whose unconstrained growth is a danger to flora and fauna, threaten the Park’s natural beauty and delicate ecosystems.
Rhododendron ponticum, the invasive species affecting Killarney National Park, is not native to Northern Europe. Despite its attractive purple flower, Rhododendron ponticum is harmful to wildlife, dangerous to people due to its unrestricted growth, and starves other plants of sun and sustenance beneath its tall, dense thickets.
While Killarney National Park has been fighting a rear-guard action against rhododendrons for over 30 years, the sheer size of the 10,000-hectare park presents serious challenges. This initiative represents an innovative approach – an attempt to harness the efforts of the whole community against this threat to one of Ireland’s most-visited sites of natural beauty.
Finbarr Kennelly and Edel Byrne discuss this initiative with Maura and Daíthi on RTÉ Today
Paul O’Neill of Killarney Chamber of Tourism & Commerce says:
“It is easy to see Killarney as a successful tourism town, but at its heart are communities of people who work together tirelessly to protect and enhance the National Park. This initiative brings those communities together on a national scale and we are delighted to extend our hospitality to The Men’s Shed volunteers this November”
Indepharm Chairman Keith Brennan says: “Indepharm & Haven Pharmacy partnered with Men’s Sheds earlier this year as its values and commitment to local Irish communities aligned perfectly with those of Men’s Sheds. Our member Finbarr Kennelly saw an excellent opportunity for Haven Pharmacy and Men’s Sheds to support Killarney National Park and the Killarney Chamber of Commerce in clearing the Rhododendron in the National Park. We are delighted to see the partnership at the forefront of such an important initiative and it would not have been possible were it not for the generosity of Killarney Hotels and cooperation of the Chamber.”
Tim Calalane, NP&WS (National Parks & Wildlife Service): There are about 3100 hectares of killarney National Park that have varying degrees of rhododendron infestation. Currently, approx. 2300 hectares (74%) of the park is under active management preventing rhododendron from becoming re-established following initial clearances using efficient and environmentally friendly methods. This programme consists of a few different elements of which volunteers play a pivotal role. Along with a year-round student program, Voluntary Services International also hosts four two-week work camps over the summer months and finally the Killarney Mountain Meitheal have also been working tirelessly over the last number of winters eradicating rhododendron in different locations in the park. There are also annual contracts for areas that are not suitable for volunteers to work in.
Barry Sheridan, CEO of the Irish Men’s Shed Association, said “it’s an absolute pleasure for us to be involved. Men’s sheds are rooted in their local communities, but they also form a national network of like-minded men. Projects such as this show just how much our shedders have to contribute”.
The initiative takes place under the auspices of the Killarney National Park Mountain Meitheal which is sponsored by the Trustees of Muckross House – the meitheal being an ancient Irish agricultural practice which brings rural communities together in common cause. The initiative will run from Sunday November 5th to Wednesday November 8th. The volunteers will be specifically trained in using the approved “snip and spray” method which has proven to be effective at restricting the regrowth of the invasive plants.