Forests and recreation
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Forest recreation, combined with countryside recreation in general, is receiving more attention in Ireland as we realise the considerable potential benefits involved. Recreational use of forests, both state and private is set to grow significantly as a result of increased levels of urbanisation, growing wealth and increased leisure time. The change in the forestry sector with diversification into recreation is creating a need for research, training, technical updates and special new skills development.
In 2006 COFORD acknowledged the role of an important non-timber forest product - forest recreation - with the launch of the report "Review of Forest Recreation Research Needs in Ireland" - Download pdf (pdf 7,935Kb) .
Forest recreation has been a management objective in the Irish forest estate since the opening of Ireland's first forest park at Gougane Barra in 1966. However, developments in forest recreation have not always had the highest priority in a growing forest industry. Clinch states that while there has been a serious deficiency in data on forest recreational use he estimated a total of 8.5 million annual visits to Irish forests at that time. More recently, the publication of Coillte's Recreation Policy - Healthy Forest, Healthy Nation in 2005 has given a new impetus to the development of forest recreation in Ireland and a further development in 2006 saw the publication of the Forest Service Forest Recreation in Ireland - A Guide for Forest Owners and Managers.
Today forest recreation users are arguably more active and environmentally aware than those of a generation ago. Consequently there are new and increasing demands being made on the forest for recreation and forest managers need to address a wide range of issues dealing with the provision of recreation. These can vary from the impact that recreation usage can have on forest activities, biodiversity or indeed other users, to the need to create woodland amenities within easy reach of a growing urban population. Recreation also has an important part to play in education on several levels. Furthermore the relationship between forest design, town planning and the use of forests are all linked to recreation in one way or another.