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Dublin: 17 °C Tuesday 17 July, 2018
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Locals fear damage that Storm Brian may do to eroding blue-flag beach

Rossbeigh beach is a beautiful attraction for locals and tourists, but it has been eroding dramatically over the past 10 years.

ROSSBEIGH BEACH IS quite a sight.

rossbeigh today Source: Caroline Griffin

Located on a tiny peninsula jutting out of Kerry’s western coast, it’s an area often used by locals and tourists, as well as researchers and environmental scientists.

But the blue-flag beach is at risk of disappearing. For the past ten years, it’s estimated that 10 to 15 million tonnes of sand have disappeared from the beach due to coastal erosion.

Near the beach there’s a road that leads to 16 houses, half of which are residential, and half of which are holiday homes. In 2015 part of that road collapsed due to tidal surges, and Kerry County Council have only just begun fortifying the road against any further erosion.

There’s also a playground, a tennis court, a pathway and public toilets that are also exposed to any tidal surges or floods, local councillor Michael Cahill said.

“I think it’s going to be a lot worse this weekend,” he told TheJournal.ie.

In the aftermath of Storm Ophelia, it appeared that the ferocious winds had swept some of the beach’s sands away with it, demonstrated here with a before and after picture sent in by a reader:

beforeophelia Before Ophelia hit. Source: Caroline Griffin

afterophelia After Ophelia (shoutout to Róisín for showing us around The Sunbeam wreckage). Source: Caroline Griffin

Cahill says that the beach was left relatively unscathed after Ophelia, but says that Storm Brian could be a different story.

“We aren’t even at high tide and the water is up to the top of the embankment,” he said on Thursday.

Susan Vickers, An Taisce’s expert in coastal programmes in the south west, explained that the beach systems are constantly in flux.

She said the problem lies when a sand dunes in a special area of conservation become bare in parts due to people “playing on them”.

“You have quite a large sand dune, and people will throw themselves down them… Communities need to work together to support efforts against coastal erosion.”

Citing a case study where a beach was saved, Vickers says that planting marram grass, which cements the dunes together to make them more solid, is one method used to conserve sand dunes.

The Maharees Heritage And Conservation group near Castlegregory has seen dramatic improvements within a year using this method, as the picture below illustrates:

maharees before and current photo Sept 2017 Source: Maharees Heritage And Conservation

But the different methods of saving beaches depends on the area and what’s causing the erosion. But is there anything that can be done to protect a beach in the event of a storm?

“If there’s a storm you’re going to have natural erosion,” Vickers says, but adds that some areas are “less protected and more vulnerable than others”.

“I do think that there’s a gap in the education of people about what can be done to protect certain [coastal] areas, the message needs to get out there,” she says.

You have to weigh up and see if the efforts that are required are worth it. Some beaches are built on areas that they shouldn’t have been.

Local woman Geraldine Murphy of Glenbeigh Community Council says that the beach is used “24/7″ by locals, but it does get a fair beating with each storm that hits.

That said, Ophelia was kind to them and didn’t do much, if any damage to the beach.

sunbeam today Source: Caroline Griffin

“We weren’t even without power which was amazing, even though it hit the Kerry coast line first.”

This weekend we’re more worried about this one coming than [Ophelia]. People paid heed to it and people stayed indoors and did what they were told – no one was hurt. So hopefully with god’s help this one will pass over too.

Geraldine added that although the weather wasn’t that severe on Friday, there was a slight clue that things were about to turn.

“It’s lovely and dry here at the moment, but when I got up here this morning the sky was as red, a really really red sky this morning.”

Read: Box from ship that sank off Waterford 21 years ago washes up on Clare coast after Ophelia

Read: Moves to protect 111-year-old shipwreck washed up by storm on Kerry beach

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