MORE than a quarter of a century after it first opened for business, the gates of the caravan park in Curraghchase have remained closed this summer.
But according to locals, people are still turning up to stay there. In the past few weeks, one man told the Limerick Leader, he met a family from New Zealand who had paid the €5 charge at the main entrance to Curraghchase Forest Park but then found the caravan park closed. They were very annoyed, he said. He also cited an Italian family who had no English and who experienced the very same problem.
“It is very bad that the caravan park is advertised on the web and on road signage and yet it is closed,” he said. Information on the park should have been updated, he argued.
But Eileen O’Keeffe, Coillte’s Recreation Manager at Curraghchase said the road signs for the caravan park have been covered over within the last fortnight. And she added, the amenity had been removed from Coillte’s own website and the Irish Caravan and Camping Council’s website.
In addition, the advertisement for the ICCC’s handbook, the “bible” for campers and caravanners had not been renewed this year. However, she said, that while she had tried to contact many other websites, it was not possible to contact them all. The listing was probably still posted on overseas websites, Ms O’Keeffe said.
“The caravan site is closed for the 2012 season,” she told the Limerick Leader. “We weren’t getting the business.”
Coillte had carried out an income and costs survey and decided opening the park in 2012 was not feasible. “It was eating into the budget for Curraghchase,” she explained.
The park itself, with its lake, picnic grounds and walking trails, attracts about 80,000 visitors a year but the caravan park was attracting less than 2000.
“It’s a very short season also, from May to September,” she said. “And the weather hasn’t been kind to us over the past few years.”
The harsh winters of the last few years had also caused damage and costs had been incurred paying for repairs to burst pipes and damaged showers, Ms O’Keeffe added.
A lot of campers and caravanners were more interested in going to the seaside, she said and Curraghchase had become just a stop-over.
Ms OKeeffe said that a number of individuals locally had approached Coillte with a view to leasing the caravan park. But, she continued, to go down such a route would require contracts to be drawn up. “It takes a bit of time and that is why nobody was given it this year.”
However, she was unable to say if the caravan park would re-open for business next year. Coillte was looking at the possibility of leasing it out, she explained. “It is disappointing,” Ms O’Keeffe acknowledged. “It has been there since the 1980s when it was state-of-the-art.” But now, there is competition from hotels offering good rates as well as from private “safe night” sites.