Visitor Access Management Plan for the North Bull Island Nature Reserve
Published on 3rd April 2023
Dublin City Council is proposing a visitor access management plan for the North Bull Island Nature reserve. We welcome feedback on this proposal which it is intended to implement from April 30, 2023.
Dublin is unique as a capital city in having a 1,436 hectare nature reserve within the city. The North Bull Island Nature Reserve also incorporates Dollymount beach and two golf courses, and so it is an important resource for the people of Dublin for both recreation and as a place to get close to nature. This brings its own challenges and the UNESCO Biosphere designation for Dublin Bay, which includes the Nature Reserve, reflects the ambition of Dublin City Council to achieve a balance between people and nature.
The island supports nine internationally important habitats and a range of protected species, including: Petalwort; Marsh Fritillary Butterfly; Harbour and Grey Seal; Common lizard; and at least three species of bat (Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, and Leisler’s). The island’s flora is significant, with 361 plant species recorded thus far, including five rare species protected under the Flora Protection Order (2022). Internationally important numbers of waterfowl and wading birds overwinter on the islands salt marshes, tidal lagoons and mudflats. In the summer, the dunes on the island provide crucial habitat for ground nesting birds, including Skylark, Stonechats, and Meadow Pipit.
There are an estimated over two million visitors to the island each year and most people understand and appreciate the value of the nature reserve. However, there is probably less appreciation of the sensitivity of bird and mammals species to disturbance by people and dogs off lead. To better understand this, surveys have been commissioned over a number of years and these have revealed the significant negative impacts caused to wildlife as a result of people walking in sensitive areas and dogs being off lead.
Having discussed the issues with stakeholders who use and care for the island and nature reserve, Dublin City Council is proposing a visitor access management plan that requires people not to access the salt marsh or northern tip of the island, which will be left undisturbed. The salt marsh is where migratory birds feed and roost so they can build up crucial fat reserves for their long migratory journeys. The northern part of the island is where seals pup and haul out.
In addition, dog walkers will be required to keep their dog on a lead in the dunes to prevent disturbance to ground nesting birds. A designated area of beach will available for dogs off-lead outside of the bathing season and bathing hours 11am to 8pm.
These ‘zones’ will be marked with signage and colour coding as follows; red (no access), blue (dogs on lead) and green (off lead outside of bathing season/bathing hours).
The visitor access management plan is based on a voluntary code, which seeks to promote responsible behaviour in those visiting the island. Dublin City Council fully expects that the local communities and people from a wider area will understand the need for this voluntary code to protect what is so special about the island. An information and awareness raising campaign will support the Visitor Access Management Plan and Dublin City Council. The monitoring of the plan will be by the North Bull Island Oversight Forum, which represents a range of stakeholders.
For further information, see North Bull Island | Dublin City Council
Notes to the Editor:
The North Bull Island Nature Reserve is the most important site for biodiversity in Dublin and is the most designated site nationally. The island is a National Nature Reserve, a Special Area of Conservation under the EU Habitats Directive, a Special Protection Area under the EU Birds Directive, and a Ramsar site due to its internationally important wetlands. In 1981, the island was designated Ireland’s first UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and was key to the whole of Dublin Bay receiving UNESCO Biosphere status in 2015.
Zoning is an action of the North Bull Island Nature Reserve Action Plan 2020-2025 for the Implementation of Management Objectives. This plan established the North Bull Island Oversight Forum to facilitate discussion and collaboration between stakeholders, including elected representatives, residents’ groups, environmental NGO’s, and volunteers groups. The zoning system and signage has been discussed and approved at the Forum.
The bathing season is from 1st June to 15th September, so having a dog off leash during these dates is not permitted.