People Power is a often a catch phrase that is bandied about, but really the power of a community is mighty when it gets into action. That was the case with Castlecomer Discovery Park, a not for profit social enterprise that was created to develop rural tourism, create jobs and regenerate the local economy.
For hundreds of years, Castlecomer was known primarily for its coal mining. Some of the best anthracite was produced here and the local economy was thriving based on the strong coal mining industry.
But in 1969 the coal mines closed and it was a devastating loss to the community, not only in terms of the economic loss but also socially, over 600 jobs were gone over night and this had a huge impact on the town.With the help of the IDA some new industries came into the town, but by the late 1990’s these had all gone and there was a real understanding by the community that these manufacturing jobs were not coming back.
So what to do? What could people do to help themselves? A community group got together with a view of developing rural tourism to help regenerate the towns economy. This was an obvious choice as the town had not only a lot of historical significance but was also a beautiful example of Irish market town.
This group focused their energies on building a state of the art coal mining museum which paid tribute to the coal miners but also the rich geological history of the area. The former stables of the Wandesford Estate were refurbished and today this is the centre point for our visitor attraction and our audio visual mining museum. It is also home to a beautiful craft courtyard full of creative people, making high quality crafts.
Today we maintain this park as a resource for locals and people from Kilkenny and beyond to enjoy nature and physical exercise, whether that is walking or taking part in our adventure activities.
We also run educational course that focus on nature and active engagement with the environment.