IRELAND’S ANSWER to Alcatraz could become a major tourist trap and national park under a €40 million ‘master plan’ published by Cork County Council.
The council proposes to designate a 100-acre national park on Spike Island in Cork Harbour, with a complex of heritage and cultural attractions in Fort Mitchel in the centre of the island.
The island – a former monastery which became a prison in the 19th century – has been largely uninhabited since 2004, but has has begun attracting up to 200,000 tourists a year since the island was handed over to the council and publicly opened in 2010.
The council has now prepared a major plan with Scott Tallon Walker architects to “offer a variety of visitor experiences”, hoping to make the island a more popular year-round destination.
The three-phase plan would see the fort developed into a multimedia tourist attraction, a venue which could house concerts with up to 6,000 attendees, and a newly-built aquarium.
The development would see the island play host to re-enactments of military and penal scenes, and house a learning centre “dedicated to oceanography and the expansive marine resources of Ireland’s Continental Shelf”.
The council says the development of the island would promote the economic potential of the Cork Harbour area, and would see an increase in regular ferry traffic between Cork, the island and Haulbowline.
The plan is to be put to councillors at their monthly meeting next Monday night, when members will be asked to approve a multi-year investment plan for the works on the island.
The council has said it hopes to secure funding from Fáilte Island for the first phase of works, to focus on the island’s environment and history, which are earmarked to begin in 2013 if the plan is approved.