Global Network of National Geoparks

Marvel of Marble Arch expands

Source : Published :October 11, 2007


The spectacular Marble Arch Caves and Cuilcagh Mountain Geopark, one of the county's most famous gems, is being expanded to ten times its current size.

The announcement has been welcomed by Agriculture Minister Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA who praised the UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation) approval. It paves the way for Fermanagh District Council to expand the current Geopark to ten times its current size, taking it to an extended area of over 16,000 (40,000 acres) hectares in West Fermanagh.

The extended area will feature some of the most scenic parts of Fermanagh, including the spectacular Lough Navar viewpoint together with large tracts of Forest Service land, along with other parts that are managed by the Environment and Heritage Service and Fermanagh District Council.

Endorsing the announcement, the Minister stated: "Geoparks are a key ingredient in promoting our geological heritage to the wider public through sustainable tourism.

"The Geopark here in Fermanagh is the only one in the North, and it gives me great pride to endorse such a large expansion, which will help to maximise the tourist potential of West Fermanagh and, indeed, the wider region."

Ms Gildernew, who was unable to attend last week's launch in the Tir Navar Centre, Derrygonnelly, praised the work of Fermanagh District Council and the Forest Service on achieving the Geopark extension.

"Our forests," she said, "offer an enormous range of economic, social and environmental benefits, and the Geopark expansion will enable further development of that potential. I remain deeply committed to strengthening the social and economic infrastructure of rural areas and I am keen to support sustainable projects like the Geopark, which enhance the quality of life for the rural community."

The Chairman of Fermanagh District Council, Alex Baird, praised the work and commitment needed to reach this stage and outlined the Council's vision.

"It is our intention," he pledged, "to use European Geopark status as an international focus for Fermanagh and to use that focus to build on our existing countryside infrastructure to further develop our world-class Geopark. We are confident that the expanded Geopark will boost Fermanagh's reputation as an attractive tourist destination and will create new development opportunities in the future."

Ulster Unionist Assemblyman, Tom Elliott, also attended the event. He said that when the Marble Arch Caves and Cuilcagh Mountain Park were jointly designated as a European Geopark by UNESCO six years ago, it confirmed what locals already knew: that Fermanagh had a unique geological asset of global significance.

"Such international recognition has helped the county to promote itself globally as a top tourist destination, particularly for the eco-tourist. The expansion of the Geopark to include Lough Navar and Castle Caldwell can only be a good thing as the county aims to improve its profile around the world," he added.