What kind of town will Clonakilty be in the next ten to twenty years? These were the big questions asked at the recent Roadmap for Clonakilty meeting on May 6 at The Fernhill Hotel. Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce, who organised the event, were delighted to see so many in attendance and the evening was rounded off with a brainstorming session that saw many excellent and innovative ideas proposed for the town.
Norman Crowley spoke about carbon emission reduction and the urgent need to change to renewable energy sources. His company, Crowley Carbon, a world leader in reducing carbon emissions, is currently working with Enniskerry Town in Wicklow to take it off the grid. He spoke with the urgency and directness of an entrepreneur who sees not just the environmental benefits but also the financial returns that could greatly benefit Clonakilty’s economy.
Ian Dempsey, from the consultancy Prescience, spoke about the future of rural towns and the changes that are necessary to move towards more sustainable growth. Towns that have embraced change and are making their economies sustainable are the ones that attract greater investment, see more tourists and create more value for the future. They also encourage a much higher quality of life with the emphasis on outdoor activities, pedestrian accessibility, and bike friendliness.
Xavier Dubisson spoke about the practical steps required to make homes energy efficient. Catherine O’Connor of the Tidy Towns talked about the need for younger people to get involved and also the shortage of experience in pollution monitoring and air quality measurement, which are increasingly important in this competition.
The evening was rounded off with a brainstorming session, which resulted in many innovative and people friendly initiatives proposed.
A follow-up meeting was held at O’Donovan’s on May 28 where a list of objectives was set out for discussion. In the short term, the objectives are to eliminate single use and plastic packaging, install water refilling points around the town, hold an annual sustainability meeting and reinvigorate the Jungle City project. The idea of children making their way around the town with interactive apps to seek out the different animals is an ideal way of showing off the growing environmental ethos of the town.
‘Clonability’ is another practical and achievable project to make the town accessible to everyone including wheelchair users, the blind, and parents with buggies. An excellent tip-sheet will be circulated to all businesses in Clonakilty.
Medium term priorities discussed included creating a walkway to Inchydoney, a playground upgrade, improving Clonakilty’s profile on the Wild Atlantic Way, eliminating the use of coal, and building a skate park or bowling alley. EU or Government funding for such projects was discussed, and though the projects range from achievable to difficult, none were discounted such was the resolve of those in attendance.
Representatives of Clonakilty Community College and Sacred Heart Secondary School are keen to see the schools getting involved. Transition year students are increasingly interested in environmental and sustainability projects and there will be further discussions on how to make this a reality.
The long-term vision, which will involve many more meetings, is to take Clonakilty off the grid. This will set the town on a path towards being a national leader and will no doubt create much interest and drive interest towards the town from investors, businesses and tourists.
How this happens will be down to the ingenuity, drive and creativity of those involved. Again, there will be much to discuss with Crowley Carbon in how to make this most essential of projects a reality. The wins for Clonakilty would be manifold – more money kept in the local economy, huge benefits to the environment and public health, goodwill created for the brand of Clonakilty by being a progressive and responsible town in this climate change era – all wins that point to a town that will thrive in the future.
It is without doubt a sign of the vision and foresight that is at the heart of the Chamber in these challenging times. For Orla O’Donovan, the new Chairperson of the Clonakilty Chamber, it has been an exciting and successful start. There are many hills yet to climb but it appears that Clonakilty has the people who just might make it one of the most forward thinking towns in Ireland. That is something for everyone to work towards.
Anyone interested in joining any of these projects can contact the Clonakilty Chamber of Commerce by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.