Spectacular suspended walkway and 12-storey slide open at Avondale Forest Park – The Irish Times CB News

A new, fully accessible treetop suspension walkway through Avondale Forest Park, which takes visitors to an eye-catching 12-storey tower and slide, has opened in Co Wicklow.

President Michael D Higgins officially launched the €19 million investment in sustainable tourism on behalf of Coillte, Fáilte Ireland and German partner and canopy walk developer EKE, which has 12 similar treetop walks in seven EU countries.

The attraction, which will be known as Beyond the Trees, is downwind of Avondale House, which was, as Mr Higgins noted, established in 1770 by Samuel Hayes, a young passionate lawyer and naturalist, who realized that the native forests of Ireland were disappearing. It was Mr. Hayes who set out to create a forest park on his land as an example of well-managed forestry. Upon his death, the estate was inherited by the Parnell family.

The new cafe, exhibition space, Coillte Pavilion and children’s play area all line one side of the walled garden of the former home of Irish parliamentary party leader Charles Stewart Parnell, whom the state of the time acquired as early as 1904, to develop the forest services.

After his guided tour, Mr Higgins praised Coillte’s approach to creating a lasting attraction, which he said met many needs; that of producing wood that can help the State increase its carbon capture; increase the State’s supply of sustainable buildings using wood in their construction; protect biodiversity in forests; contribute to mitigating climate change; encouraging leisure, with its attendant health benefits; and provide an attraction that is fully accessible to people with disabilities or special needs.

Mr Higgins also said facilities such as Avondale provide wood to boost the state’s “desperately needed” housing supply. But the president did not repeat any of his earlier controversial remarks about the nature of the state’s housing crisis, merely praising the work of “so many government agencies” involved in the Avondale project.

He added: “In terms of lived experience, may I suggest that places like Avondale House and Forest Park allow all of us – people of all walks of life, of all ages and walks of life – to reconnect with nature, to reaffirm its critical position in our lives, perhaps even to commit to individual and collective action to protect it, combat biodiversity decline and climate change.

Sean De Burca from Galway played a grand piano on the terrace of Avondale’s new Seed Cafe as several hundred guests, led by Minister of State for Forests Pippa Hackett, enjoyed rare sunshine of summer at the launch on Wednesday.

Orla Carroll, director of product development at Fáilte Ireland, said 60 full-time and part-time jobs had been created to staff the site to meet expectations of 200,000 to 250,000 visitors during its first full year. The attraction will include a state-of-the-art ‘hangover’ for visitors with special needs. Wheelchairs are available for loan on site and a sensory garden in the courtyard is designed to be a welcoming space for those with sensory processing issues, including autism, physical disabilities and dementia.

Entry to the Seed Cafe, Walled Garden and Coillte Pavilion is free. Tickets to access the treetop walk and the observation tower cost €14 per adult, €11 per child (free for children under 3); family tickets are €38 for a family of up to five people; and student and OAP rates are also offered.

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