There were chaotic scenes in Glendalough and other popular locations in the uplands as huge volumes of traffic descended on Wicklow over the weekend.
On Saturday Gardai had to restrict access to Glendalough for two hours as over 500 vehicles were turned away. Vehicles badly parked along the Sally Gap and Luggala were issued with on-the-spot fines, while a tow wagon towed away a number of offending vehicles on Sunday.
Mountain Rescue also had difficulty accessing an injured member of the public at Lough Tay because access to a pathway was blocked.
The scenes over the weekend were similar to the chaos experienced in March prior to lockdown, when the decision was taken to close the car parks and all food franchises.
Glendalough resident Senator Pat Casey said: ‘It’s the first weekend since traveling restrictions were lifted where we saw huge crowds of people coming to Glendalough. Gardai had to close off Glendalough for a period on Saturday because it was so busy. Once all three car parks are full, there isn’t room for anyone else.
‘Coordination takes place between the three car parks and the Gardai so as to try and get some sort of handle on the traffic volumes in Glendalough. It was actually worse on Sunday. People seem to be coming earlier in the morning than usual and are staying for longer, so there isn’t the same turnover of spaces in the car parks.’
Many motorists turned away from Glendalough on Saturday took the decision to park along the Sally Gap and Luggala.
Speaking on Saturday, a Garda spokesperson said: ‘Because of traffic volumes today, Gardaí had to restrict access to Glendalough this afternoon for two hours with traffic being denied access at the Wicklow Gap junction and Laragh. As a result people decided parking badly was a good idea in Sally Gap and Luggala. All offending cars ticketed and a tow wagon now on standby for tomorrow. This kind of parking endangers everyone by restricting the emergency services.’
On Sunday, Mountain Rescue couldn’t access a pathway in order to reach a casualty due to illegally parked vehicles, forcing them to travel an extra distance to reach the injury victim.
A Garda spokesperson added: ‘Mountain Rescue arrived to assist a casualty and were unable to access a pathway with their jeep meaning an extra distance had to be covered on foot to reach the injured person. Policing this parking is not revenue generation. It is to protect all the people using the amenities, even those who chose to park recklessly.’
Tow wagons were in operation on Sunday to tackle any vehicles abandoned on roads and creating a hazard.
Senator Casey said that the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a noticeable change in the tourism season, with visitors from Dublin now making up most of the numbers.
‘Usually at this time of year we would be busiest with tourists from overseas and the domestic market. However, this year most of our visitors at this time are day-visitors, mainly from Dublin. We aren’t really seeing many overseas visitors. The domestic tourists we usually get from Cork and elsewhere don’t seem to be travelling yet.’