The Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark was designated as a UNESCO site following a vote at the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) General Conference in Paris on November 17.
The designation means that the Clare County Council managed Geopark, along with Ireland's two other Geoparks – the Copper Coast Geopark and Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark – is now a UNESCO Global Geopark and is now at the same level as other UNESCO designated sites in Ireland such as Newgrange and the Giant’s Causeway.
The Cliffs of Moher and the Burren, Co. Clare’s lunar-looking landscape dotted with limestone karst, are among the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher reached a record 1 million visitors for 2015 in September.
This new UNESCO designation ads to their acclaim and further ensures their preservation.
"UNESCO has, for the first time since the signing of the World Heritage Convention in 1972, created a new site designation, the UNESCO Global Geopark. These are areas where the memories of our planet are written but they are also living areas, with vibrant communities, and strategies to promote sustainable economic development and are linked together in a worldwide network of cooperation,” Professor Patrick McKeever, Chief of Section of Earth Science and Geo-Hazards Risk Reduction at UNESCO, explained.
"In Ireland, the three UNESCO Global Geoparks have geological heritage of international value but they all face different challenges," he added. "The Burren & Cliffs of Moher UNESCO Global Geopark has the challenge of managing the visitors to this magnificent part of Ireland in a way that doesn't diminish the visitor experience or damage the environment or the quality of life for those who live here. The Global Geopark has facilitated many local initiatives here which not only offer the visitor a wider range of things to do and the chance to stay longer, but do so in a way that is inclusive of the local communities and helps spread the benefit of tourism wider."
Carol Gleeson manager of the Burren and Cliffs of Moher Geopark said, "We are very proud of the fact that the Burren and Cliffs of Moher is now one of 120 UNESCO Global Geoparks across the world. This new designation will act as a catalyst for promoting the sustainable, community-based tourism development of the Burren, using the already successful UNESCO brand as a mechanism for sharing this wonderful landscape with the world."
"UNESCO Geopark status is more than a designation. It is membership of a worldwide network where knowledge-sharing on heritage management and sustainable development takes a central role. From our participation in the Global Geopark Network we have gained great insights that have helped us in our work of balancing conservation and tourism in the Burren region," she added.
The news was welcomed by Cllr. James Breen, Cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, who said: "As a Geopark, the Burren is very much part of a global community that shares knowledge and expertise on heritage management and sustainable development, leading to well-managed protected landscapes with preserved local heritage. This approach, combined with a good working relationship with communities throughout the Burren has established the Burren as the thriving, sustainable destination it is today."
He congratulated the Clare County Council, the Geological Survey of Ireland, Failte Ireland, the Office of Public Works, the National Monuments Service, The Heritage Council, National University Galway and University College Dublin, the Burren Ecotourism Network, local businesses and the community for “their work to establish a solid, sustainable and vibrant tourism infrastructure in the Burren.”
For more information see www.burrengeopark.ie