Environmental concerns about 9 day Riverfest

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A number of concerned locals have contacted The Coleraine Times about the damage the nine day long festival on the River, RiverFest, has caused to the river bed and wildlife.

We had a number of calls and letters raising similar concerns in the last week, as the event took place on the River Bann.

Those who contacted us were pleased to see the River Bann being utilised, but one resident said via email: “Whilst I am a great supporter in utilising the River and encouraging young people to get involved in such sports, I do think that a lack of care for the wildlife and their habitats will lead to the loss of the river as a valuable resource.

“These creatures have made the River Bann their home, and have to be protected. It would appear that the organisers have failed on this occasion to do so.”

Another resident who contacted us by letter said: “ Wakeboarding and skiing are inimical to most other river users. They involve the use of high powered, high speed boats which erode the riverbanks. In particular, the wake from these boats damages reed beds which provide an important habitat for wildlife such as swans. For these reasons wakeboarding and skiing should be confined to areas of relatively wide open water, such as broad estuaries or lakes and they should not be encouraged on relatively narrow stretches of navigable inland waterways, particularly in residential areas.

“Power boats have already seriously damaged long stretches of riverbank upstream, requiring expensive and unsightly rock armouring. Why now damage another narrow section?

“At least the older-style Riverfest was time limited to just two days. This year it was extended without consultation with local residents to an intolerable nine days. As if damaging the riverbanks weren’t bad enough, local residents were subjected to noise disturbance. Boats roared along the river accompanied by the ‘boom boom’ of disco music from Christie Park, all over-ridden by a breathless commentary shouted into a microphone for up to twelve hours a day.”

In a plea to Waterways Ireland, the resident said: “In the interests of the riverbanks, the area’s wildlife and the sanity of residents think again in your support for this event.

Organisers respond

“As the sponsor, Waterways Ireland spoke to the festival organiser about the single complaint that had received. The organiser confirmed that widespread consultation with locals had taken place about the change in format. He agreed that wind carried the noise further than expected, so music speakers at were adjusted. Waterways Ireland welcome this International Festival to Coleraine and hope that it brings economic benefits and enjoyment to the local community over the festival period.”