Shared Island Civic Society Fund Brings Geopark Communities Together
Mourne Gullion Strangford Global Geopark (GGP) has hosted representatives from the Joyce Country and Western Lakes aspiring Global Geopark (aGGP), located on the West Coast of Ireland.
On 17 and 18 October, community representatives from the Joyce Country and Western Lakes aGGP travelled to meet their counterparts in Mourne Gullion Strangford in an exchange visit funded by the Shared Island Civic Fund. This partnership between the two geoparks aims to strengthen collaboration between their communities and businesses, creating stronger, sustainable cross-border civic relationships.
Speaking how valuable exchange programmes such as these are for shared learning and fostering relationships, Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Valerie Harte, said, “The community-led partnerships who promote and protect the natural, built and cultural heritage within our Geopark are very important to us. Geoparks are, most importantly, about the local people and the communities that live here.”
Chairperson, Cllr Valerie Harte continued, “We value their commitment and passion. I hope that everyone who is taking part in this exchange project will benefit from this experience and take-away some new knowledge, business links and hopefully some new friendships. Projects like these help the community of Mourne Gullion Strangford to become a more sustainable community, with a local economy boosted through conservation and regenerative tourism.”
Michael Hegarty, Manager of Joyce Country and Western Lakes Geopark said, “Communities can learn a lot from exchanges, such as between our two geoparks. We both want creative and resilient communities able to meet the challenges in our respective futures. They include around such things as infrastructure and facilities, local services delivery, tourism and other business development, and job creation. And we want to create stronger links between communities across the whole Island of Ireland. Geoparks work by helping people recognise sustainable development goes hand-in-hand with knowing about our fantastic natural heritage and making good use of opportunities that spring from this connection. The UNESCO brand provides a fantastic international connection, through the network of more than 200 Global Geoparks.”
Internationally, UNESCO Global Geoparks play an important role in sustainable community development. The communities within geoparks are supported and encouraged to take ownership of their local area and to take direct, practical action to tackle the challenges of the rapidly changing world around them to secure their natural, built, and cultural heritage.
Through active citizenship, communities within Mourne Gullion Strangford Global Geopark are delivering community-led partnerships across the region, such as planting community orchards in Newcastle and restoring coastal dunes in Tyrella and Ballyhornan. During their visit the representatives from the Joyce Country and Western Lakes aGGP, visited locations across Mourne Gullion Strangford, connecting with local community representatives, discussing the challenges of sustainable community development, visiting and hearing about projects that have been successfully delivered and the difficulties that have been overcome during the process. A fantastic opportunity for shared experience and learning.