OPINION: There's life in the old Kildare bog yet

OPINION: There's life in the old Kildare bog yet

Did your know that in Kildare, 76% of us live on 6% of the land.

The remaining 24% of us are to be found in little nooks and crannies on the remaining 94%.

That means that 174,800 live in one of the many towns or villages in the county – and the remaining 55,200 of us live in rural areas.

Anyway, apart from all the numbers, it all points to an inescapable fact – despite having a greater population than any other county in the state outside the cities, Kildare is a sparsely populated place.

The vast majority of the land in Kildare, is either farm or bogland.

The single largest land owner in the county is Bord na Mona, which is facing into an interesting situation over the next few decades, when an enormous amount of land will change from its current use as the turf runs out.

I’m inclined to think we should be having a discussion about what we’d like to see happening there.

I like what has been done at the Boora Parklands in
Offaly, where a large section of cutaway bog has been transformed into a nature reserve, a place for sculpture and art, and generally just somewhere nice to go for
a walk or spin around
on a bike.

If you consider the nature of this land – varying degrees of drainage, criss-crossed with a significant rail system, often surrounded by forestry – managed and not – and a place where native wildlife
flourishes by virtue of being ignored.

We clearly don’t need this land for housing, we’re not crying out for farmland, nobody wants another dump ... sorry, managed landfill, and when it comes to wind farms, well, let’s not mention the war.

By the time Bord na Mona is finished with the land it won’t be true bogland in the sense that most of the turf will have been removed, but it’ll require some work to turn it into something that could be farmed, or built upon.

So why bother?

Why don’t we let it revert back to its natural state, and only intervene in it enough to provide facilities for walkers, mountain bikers, nature enthusiasts and other tourists.

Surely the existing train tracks are heaven sent for tours.

This has a number of
advantages – it’s the cheapest thing that can be done; it’s good for the environment; it will allow us all to avoid another controversial planning debacle; it will create a significant income for tourism services nearby – just like the excellent work that was done in Ballyhoura Forest in Co Limerick.

Instead of looking at a hilly forest and concluding that nothing can be done with it, it’s been transformed into a community tourism initiative, with nature and adventure activities aplenty.

It might be hard to appreciate for Kildare natives, but that’s the direction the tourism industry is developing – people are less drawn to merely looking at stuff like old buildings monuments and scenery
and more to experiences and adventures.

It may well be that the best thing we can with the bog is to leave it alone.