More on WI’s 2012 publication The Barrow Corridor Recreational, Tourism and Commercial Product Identification Study. The action programme is covered in Chapter 6 (22 pages) and its implementation in Chapter 7 (5 pages). There are actually seven suggested programmes:
1 Navigation Infrastructure and management programme
2 Activity Hubs and Tourism Trails
3 Boating and Cruising Development Programme
4 Raising the profile of the River Barrow and environs – touring itineraries
5 Barrow Nature and Wildlife Sites and Interpretation
6 Barrow Way and South Leinster Way Trail Enhancement Programme
7 Development of a Coarse Fishing Centre of Excellence for the Barrow.
Why seven? Why these seven? How are they linked to the eleven subsidiary objectives? What’s the difference between a trail and an itinerary? Why are boating matters split over two programmes? Why are walking trails covered in programmes 2 and 6?
The point here is not that the choice of those seven programmes, and the allocation of elements amongst them, is necessarily mistaken; it is rather that we are not told the logic behind the choice and the allocation. Chapter 6 is not shown to follow from anything elsewhere in the report or to be based on any examination of, say, potential visitor demand. Section 6.1 reads:
The following pages identify proposals and recommendations for tourism, recreation and commercial product development in the Barrow area.
But it is difficult to assess the likely benefits of those proposals and recommendations without any context, so I thought it might be useful to try to match the programmes to the (non-housekeeping) products and the customers discussed on The Barrow Study 03: the objectives. Incidentally, sometimes the Nore is mentioned and sometimes it isn’t, but I’ll assume that it should be included.
|1||“A river long itinerary based on historic houses, castles and gardens and information to support a visit based on ecclesiastical heritage”||Sightseers and culture seekers||4 Raising the profile of the River Barrow and environs – touring itineraries|
|2, 3||—||Folk passing through or nearby||4 Raising the profile of the River Barrow and environs – touring itineraries|
|5||Cruising||The specialist cruising visitor to the Barrow and its estuary||1 Navigation infrastructure and management programme3 Boating and cruising development programme|
|6||Barrow Way long-distance walk||Domestic and overseas walkers||6 Barrow Way and South Leinster Way trail enhancement programme|
|7||Angling and accommodation||Anglers||7 Development of a coarse fishing centre of excellence|
|8||Nature and wildlife||People in Ireland and overseas [interested in having] outstanding nature and wildlife experiences||5 Barrow nature and wildlife sites and interpretation|
|10||Boating on tidal waters||Coastal cruising folk||1 Navigation infrastructure and management programme|
|—||—||—||2 Activity hubs and tourism trails|
Now, it’s not the end of the world, but there is a certain lack of coherence in the report. It’s as though every chapter was written by a separate person, with some agreement between the writers on what they were going to recommend but without any rigorous attempt to link programmes to customers, products and objectives. The result is that, to a large extent, the programmes have to be assessed on their own merits, because their contribution to the achievement of the overall objectives has not been demonstrated. No doubt the links are clear to the authors, and they may be shown in material that was not included in the final report, but the published document would be strengthened were its coherence clearer to the uninitiated reader.
Accordingly, it will be necessary to discuss the programmes in isolation, but first a word about Chapter 7 Implementing the Recommendations of the Study. It has three sections.
First, it says that there should be a permanent steering group with folk from Waterways Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, county councils, LEADER groups and New Ross Harbour Commissioners [recte New Ross Port Company]. It adds that the group would need
… good working relationships with a wide range of bodies including recreational users, Inland Fisheries Ireland and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
This assumes that economic development is best managed by an assortment of public-sector or publicly-funded bodies, which is something that remains to be demonstrated. The recent record of Irish public sector bodies in economic management does not inspire confidence.
Second, it wants the Barrow corridor to be promoted as a whole, although it notes that Waterways Ireland (Barrow Navigation, prop) is the only body currently doing that. It would like other bodies to cooperate, which may mean contributing money to WI’s promotional efforts. It says:
Ideally all interests will work together to ensure that aspects of the area achieve ‘must-see’ status within Tourism Ireland literature and collateral pitched towards overseas markets. Potential aspects of the area that could achieve this include the proposed Castles, Historic Houses and Gardens trail particularly if designed to link Kilkenny and Dublin or Waterford and Dublin. A more developed cruising experience could also achieve standout status within that market.
I quote that only to make the point that we’ve gone from a Celtic waterway (of great charm) to an English Norman waterway with an industrial heritage alternative to a castles, historic houses and gardens trail. No doubt one of them will prove to be the right answer. And if not, they can always fall back on saints ….
Third, there’s a section on “managing the quality of the Barrow experience” (which doesn’t have much that isn’t covered in the proposed programmes) as well as a list of priorities.