Parks Beyond Borders: Conference On European Wilderness Set During "The Gathering" Travel Year In Ireland

The high peaks of Killarney National Park, Macgillicuddy’s Reeks, are one among many destinations for park enthusiasts in the Emerald Isle. Photo by Randy Johnson.

The topic of “rewilding” Europe will come up for serious consideration at a May 14-16, 2013 international conference on The Potential and Challengees of Developing Wilderness in Modified European Landscapes. The conference, to be held in County Mayo, Ireland, is occuring during The Gathering 2013, Ireland's major push to invite people of Irish descent—or just Irish inspiration, to visit the island nation.

The Conference is sponsored by Coillte (Ireland’s state forest company), in cooperation with the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Mayo County Council, and is being held during Ireland’s Presidency of the Council of the European Union. Coincidentally, this year, Derry-Londonderry has been named as the first ever UK City of Culture—one more nod at 2013 being a landmark year to visit national park rich Ireland.

The Conference

The Conference committee says the gathering will, “will bring together experts, representing national and international organisations, to share information and exchange ideas on current and possible future approaches to rewilding modified landscapes particularly former plantation forests and other impacted landscapes.” Organizers also say the conference “will be of particular interest to large land owners (both public and private) who maybe considering re-wilding or wilderness projects in Europe.

The conference is also supported by Pan Parks and Wild Europe, both organizations that are pushing for a European-wide wilderness preservation system. With that in mind, the conference program is understandably aimed at governmental organizations. “State Forest organisations and National Park authorities will find the programme of particular value as will nature conservation and advocacy organisations, both statutory and non governmental,” says the program.” Universities, outdoor recreation and ecotourism groups will also benefit and add much to the debate and discussions.

“We believe,” says the PAN Parks Foundation, “that true wilderness could cover 5% of Europe’s land territory in order to form a strong and sustainable European Wilderness Preservation System. However,” says PAN Parks, “there are various challenges linked to enlarging the current 1% coverage of wilderness in our modified landscapes. This conference will deal with the forestry aspects of wilderness protection.”

Registration for this Conference will be €100 and will include the conference dinner and field trip transport. All other travel, accommodation and subsistence costs will be the sole responsibility of the delegates. To register your interest in participating or for further details please email—

Time to Visit the Country

There's a lot going on in Ireland this year, whether or not you attend the conference. This is a country of spectacular national parks and outstanding natural beauty—not to mention very dark, tasty beer.

The Irish travel folks are excited about The Gathering. "We’re throwing a party," says the event website. "A big one. It’s country-wide, year-long, and larger and more ambitious than anything we’ve done before. From a minute after midnight on 1 January 2013, and for an entire year, The Gathering is taking over Ireland. The whole country is the venue, and the entire population is the host."

The Gathering involves a wide range of events and coincides with a number of interesting travel offerings, including a newly signed travel route that's been formalized to lead you on a wonderful tour of Ireland's rugged Western coast where national parks dot the map.

It also has some pretty impressive pitchmen. Pierce Brosnan describes The Gathering as a year where we “celebrate what it is to be Irish”. Liam Neeson says: “Whether you’re first, second-generation or even with no connection to Ireland, you should visit in 2013 for a unique experience.” What I'd say is, 2013 should be a great time to visit and take in Ireland's outstanding national parks.

Check out this Traveler story on Ireland's top ten national parks and for more on Killarney National Park pictured above, peruse our piece on this park's own version of Downton Abbey.

Comments

Visiting ireland soon, cant wait. Good article indeed.