Monday 27 May 2019

Residents concerned over illegal camping and fires

Cullenstown Strand where illegal camping is taking its toll
Cullenstown Strand where illegal camping is taking its toll
The remains of one of the campfires

Brendan Keane

Residents in two of the most picturesque and tranquil beaches in the county are concerned at increasing levels of anti-social behaviour in their areas - particularly in relation to illegal camping and camp-fires.

People living in the vicinity of Cullenstown Strand are concerned about people camping illegally on the beach, vandalism of local amenities and having their properties broken into. They also claim not enough is being done by the local authority to address their concerns.

One person who spoke to this newspaper said incidents escalated in recent weeks.

The most recent incident saw a large group of people setting up camp on the beach. However, some residents say it's not just illegal camping that's causing concern.

'There are also drug dealers using the beach at night to carry out deals,' one local told this newspaper.

Beach by-laws came into affect in the area on February 10, 2005, however, some residents claim the County Council is not doing enough to enforce them.

Under the by-laws people are not permitted to camp on the beach and penalties relating to a breach of the by-laws include an on-the-spot-fine of €125 or a possible fine of €1,270 on summary conviction in court.

The most recent incident in Cullenstown saw the taps left running and remnants of camp fires left smouldering. Children visiting the beach area love climbing the grassy banks that run down towards the area where cars usually park and sliding back down, however, as one of the resident pointed out those involved in camping illegally and engaging in anti-social behaviour are breaking bottles in the grass and throwing embers from their fires onto the banks as well.

'If a child came down some of those banks now they would reef themselves off glass,' said one local.

He also pointed out that it's not just the residents who are affected by anti-social behaviour as there are a large number of responsible visitors who arrive on the beach every summer and who take care not to dump rubbish or start illegal fires and those people are also adversely affected by the irresponsible actions of others.

'We don't want people to stop going down there but we want them to be responsible when they do,' he said.

Recent weeks have seen picnic tables vandalised including having bits broken off them and burned.

'It's been going on too long and we just want something done to prevent it happening,' said one resident.

They are asking that the County Council install CCTV monitoring at the beach and say even one camera would make a big difference.

'Obviously, it wouldn't even have to be aimed towards the beach but just in the direction of the ball alley and the public toilets,' said another resident.

'It would also help if we could have a big sign erected highlighting the fact there is no camping or camp-fires allowed,' he added.

'We need something that will work long-term; we need cameras that will protect locals.'

Resident are also asking for the local authority to meet with them so they can outline exactly what they would like and to raise their concerns about what is happening.

'Why can we not get a camera down here when the beach is patrolled sometimes by a warden?' asked one man.

'We have the by-laws but when are they going to be implemented properly? Cullenstown doesn't seem to be as important as other areas.'

The residents in Rosslare Strand are also concerned about people lighting camp-fires near the sand dunes while camping illegally there.

One Rosslare resident said he had put out four separate fires within the last two weeks.

'The public can reach the dunes down a little lane opposite the Coast Hotel and the first time it was four women who had set up tents down there,' he said.

'The next day there were three barbecues lighting and I approached the women and said 'you'll have to put them out' but in fairness they did,' he added.

The man said a similar incident occurred the following day only that time it involved a group of 'young fellows'.

'They had bottles with them and I just asked them could they take them away with them but the next day there was a fire lighting and there were bottles everywhere,' said the man.

Three days later he approached another group of youths and when he asked them to take away their bottles and not light a fire he was met 'with a look'!

'On Sunday there was another fire and it was right up against the dunes and it could have caused a major incident,' said the resident.

As the man pointed out contact was made with the local authority about the issue prior to the major fire in Curracloe.

'That fire highlighted what can happen and thankfully no-one was killed but it's like a tinderbox down here at the moment and we don't want something similar happening here,' he said.

He added that local people walk the dunes but residents are concerned that the irresponsible actions of a minority of people could have disastrous consequences.

'It's like the incident in Greece; it only takes a few minutes and it could light up,' he said.

'I am only trying to prevent a disaster happening here,' he added.

The man, who is originally from Wexford town, said his family had an association with Rosslare Strand going back three generations.

'I know the dunes inside out and the grass is so dry at present they would go up very quickly - as we have seen elsewhere.'

He highlighted the fact that Rosslare, like Curracloe, is one of the busiest beaches in the county but there are no adequate signs informing people not to camp or to light fires.

'One sign is all we need,' he said.

A spokesperson for the Department of Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht, issued a statement to this newspaper in which she highlighted that staff from the National Parks and Wildlife Service have been regularly patrolling the Raven Nature Reserve throughout the dry spell and have had to put out 'many camp fires'.

'Such fires are illegal within one miles of a nature reserve,' said the spokesperson in the statement.

'We ask the public to avoid lighting fires or discard cigarette butts anywhere in or near the nature reserve and to report any concerns to the ranger based at Wexford Wildfowl Reserve at 0761-002661,' she added.

When contacted about the residents' concerns Senior Engineer with Wexford County Council's Environment Department, Gerry Forde, confirmed he was aware of the issues in both areas.

'We have 250km of coastline and 26 beaches where there are by-laws in place,' he said.

Mr Forde also said that because of the exceptionally fine summer there has been in increase in the number of incidents involving people camping illegally.

While the warden has been sent out on a number of occasions Mr Forde said there were three strands in dealing with such incidents.

'The first one is education and we have signage up highlighting the by-laws and the second strand is enforcement and that is done through the warden,' he said.

'The third strand is where we could fence off the areas where it's going on but obviously with 250km of coastline that would be difficult,' he added.

With regard to Cullenstown Mr Forde said he has been in contact with residents in the area and is due to meet them this week to discuss their concerns.

The area of concern in Rosslare Strand is also covered by by-laws and Mr Forde said the local authority will check to ensure there is adequate signage in the area.

'We will be getting the warden to look at the area as well,' he said.

Wexford People

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