Galway Community College, who are a champion of the National Park City, is undertaking the rewilding of some of the lands surrounding the eastern side of Lough Atalia as part of an Erasmus research collaboration between three schools from three European countries (Croatia, Spain and Ireland) based on working with national wildlife NGO’s to research and compile information about locally endangered species.
According to Tom Flanagan, who is coordinating the college’s involvement in what is the largest rewilding project in the city since Terryland Forest Park was first planted with native Irish trees in 2000, “One of the key objectives of this project is to work with local governments and other interest groups to try and implement corrective actions in order to relieve some of the pressures causing biodiversity loss. Loss of natural habitat is one of the biggest problems facing locally endangered species in and around Galway City. Lough Atalia is an EU protected SAC (Special Area of Conservation) site and is used as a nesting site for many bird species including Little Grebe, Wigeon Teal, Shelduck, Goldeneye and Red-breasted Merganser, Redshank, Greenshank, Curlew, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Kingfisher and Stonechat. A seal family use the sea-lake for shelter during the winter months. It is also where two endangered species, the curlew and the lapwing, reside. This area would benefit greatly from allowing the grazed section of the floodplains to return to natural reed beds, rushes and the higher grounds return to scrub of blackthorn to increase nesting/feeding areas for many species of local birdlife, insects and mammals that frequent this habitat thus expanding the ecological corridor around our city.”
Tom is proposing to construct an outdoor classroom area with educational signage. The teaching and student investigators have baseline data from environmental surveys carried out on the site in recent years and are excited to watch new and increased numbers of wildlife species return to the area in the forthcoming years.
The Galway Community College currently use this facility for outdoor pursuits including kayaking, archery, orienteering and a recently completed obstacle course.All of its present users will continue to have access to this facility for recreational use but will have the added benefit of using this site as a nature reserve for field trips and science and geography habitat studies.
A video overview of the comprehensive range of environmental activities at the college which includes an ongoing planting of a native tree woodland, offering a post leaving certificate (PLC) course on horticulture, undertaking composting for the school vegetable gardens, eliminating once-off plastic bottles and organising clean-ups in the locality can be seen here