The iconic bridge at Killykeen is set to be widened.

Master Plan for Killykeen

Killykeen is poised to return to its former glory as one of the major tourist attractions for the region The Anglo-Celt can reveal.

The council is set to develop a master plan for the forest park to enhance facilities and attract visitors from across the region to the beauty spot. While still in its infancy, the plan promises to map out ambitious proposals similar to those that saw the Cavan Burren developed into one of the region’s premier tourist attractions.

Working with Fáilte Ireland and Coillte, the scheme will follow a similar process to that already underway for Dún a Rí Forest Park in Kingscourt.

Significant funding has been pumped into Killykeen Forest Park in recent years, delivering new walkways and cycle paths.

The success of wilderness resort, Cabu by the Lakes, has further put pressure on all concerned to come up with new ideas to enhance Killykeen’s offering, and sustainably elevate Cavan’s position as a destination location within the wider Cuilcagh Lakelands UNESCO Global Geopark.

“We have to look at Killykeen as a whole, what’s its future? What part it can play in the overall tourism product we have to offer?” Director of Services at Cavan County Council, Brendan Jennings told The Anglo-Celt. “Those [discussions with stakeholders] have to start before the end of this year.”

The master plan will underpin any future funding application, which Mr Jennings suggested could be as pioneering as that implemented for the Cavan Burren and the newly proposed Shannon Pot Discovery Centre.

“All of that will form part of our discussions, enhancing what’s there to attract more visitors, but at the same time, do it sensitively with the environment in mind,” said Mr Jennings. “It’s all part of a broader plan we have in mind. It’s our flagship park, and that’s no disrespect to anywhere else, so we have to get it right. What’s the new attraction, if any, we’ll be putting there in order to take it up a level? Every one of these national parks have their own niche, what’s unique about them, and this plan hopefully will focus everyone’s minds on what Killykeen can offer.”

Bridge planning

Councillors in the Cavan-Belturbet Municipal District area sanctioned planning to upgrade the pedestrian bridge at Killykeen. It’s proposed to replace the existing timber structure with a new wider, two-way crossing that takes inspiration from its historical surrounds. Aligned to that development is the installation of a temporary modular unit to include toilet facilities and retail space next to the carpark on the Cavan Town side of the park and adjacent to the former restaurant.

The planner’s report was presented to MD elected members by Senior Executive Engineer Derry Scanlan.

Notice advising of the planned works has already been erected, with the Departments of Housing, Local Government and Heritage, An Taisce, Heritage Council, Failte Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) all also informed.

Along with benefitting both walkers and cyclists, the new bridge will be raised to allow for more boats, kayaks and canoes to pass under during high water periods.

The existing bridge comprises two steel supports, which will remain, and two more complimentary beams will bolted to the existing structure to facilitate widening.

The construction of both the bridge and the modular unit will take place off-site, and measures to minimise the potential damage to watercourses and the lake during construction will occur.

‘Key’ to the design concept, planners say, is the presentation of ‘differing perspectives and views’ across the waterways. They are conscious too that the bridge remains an ‘iconic feature’ of the park.

‘The form of the sculptural bridge takes reference for Gartanoul a megalithic court tomb located in Killykeen. The bridge’s angular shape resembles the large stone slabs forming the threshold to the court to tomb.’

The bridge replacement is expected to take place towards the end of the third quarter of this year, and into quarter four.

“A lot of this will be manufactured off-site and brought on-site then to mitigate impact on the surrounding area. It will be a very quick installation,” Director of Services Mr Jennings explained. “We’ve done preliminary design and detailed design now is currently underway before dropping in the bridge on the existing structure that’s there. It’s a composite structure, but wood of course will remain an integral part of what is proposed.”