Safety plan is needed for Coosan Point – O’Rourke
Mayor of Athlone Moate Municipal District Cllr Aengus O'Rourke has called for a safety plan to be drawn up for the Coosan Point area of Athlone.
Cllr O'Rourke said the well-attended amenity had become more even more popular during the pandemic as people have tended to gravitate towards the outdoors and to the water.
However, he said there was now agreement that action needs to be taken to ensure safety is paramount.
Cllr O'Rourke said in the lake around Coosan Point there are fishing boats, speed boats, jet-skis, cruisers, Lough Ree RNLI and of course open water swimmers, and the latter, in increasing number.
“As Chairman of the Athlone River Safety Awareness group, I have been contacted by numerous people about safety in and on the water around Coosan Point.
“I have spoken to a number of stakeholders in recent weeks; anglers, Lough Ree RNLI, Coosan Swimmers, Waterways Ireland and management in Westmeath County Council. There is a general consensus that something needs to be done to mitigate the risks associated with so much activity on the water in such a concentrated area.
He called on Westmeath County Council, which controls land access to the water, and Waterways Ireland, under whose remit management of the water falls, to host a meeting on the issue and bring all of the water-based groups using Coosan Point together.
“Such a meeting would give everyone an opportunity to discuss the issues and also examine the potential actions that could be taken.”
He said motorised craft need to be aware that Coosan Point is a Special Area of Conservation and a bird sanctuary; with ducks, moorhens, swans and other birds in plentiful supply in the area.
And Cllr O'Rourke warned that swimmers in the water can be extremely vulnerable if they are not using the correct devices when they are in open water and if they are not using common sense.
“A dark swim cap for example can be easily mistaken as a bird in the water by a boat user. A duck or a bird will fly away as a boat approaches, but a swimmer is at huge risk if struck by a boat and propellor,” he said.
“As a public amenity Coosan Point is there for everyone’s enjoyment, young and old, swimmer and boat user. We simply need to put some ground rules in place to ensure everyone’s safety is properly considered. At the moment we have a free-for-all situation, this cannot be sustained.
“Greater controls also need to be considered around the use of jet-skis and speed boats. Their use should be confined to the open lake, well away from public amenities.
“I will ensure that the two lead agencies, Westmeath County Council and Waterways Ireland come together and liaise with the relevant groups to find a reasonable solution," he concluded.