A series of new marker posts installed on the Queen Maeve Trail on Knocknarea will help walker safety and could save lives, according to supporters of the project. Ciarán Davis, Team Leader with Sligo Leitrim Mountain Rescue Team (SLMRT), says that these markers “can have a major role in keeping people safe on the mountain. Hill walkers that become lost and injured can often become disorientated and make snap decisions. Especially in bad weather, this can have serious consequences. Locating your nearest marker and remaining there until the Emergency Services reach you is important and will reduce the risk of further injury.”
The limestone markers – 24 in all – have been installed by Sligo County Council at intervals all around the 6km looped Queen Maeve Trail. The markers are clearly numbered and if a walker becomes lost or injured and requires assistance, they can call the Emergency Services and inform them of the position of the marker nearest them. From that point, the SLMRT will provide the assistance needed.
“Sometimes we can guide people down off the mountain remotely,” says Henry Doherty of SLMRT. “If the weather deteriorates and the walker becomes lost, but remains on the main trail, we can usually provide assistance over the phone and the walker will be able to safely navigate their way down the mountain. But if further assistance is required, we will send a team to the marker location given to us, and bring the walker to safety.”
The SLMRT rescue plan can also involve the activation of the helicopter search and rescue service, based at nearby Strandhill Airport. There are a number of locations where the helicopter can safely land on the mountain and the new markers are important in directing the services to the closest landing site.
Even though Knocknarea is one of Sligo’s most accessible and popular mountain trails and where signage is visible to help guide walkers, SLMRT receives on average 5-6 emergency calls every year from walkers on the mountain. Thankfully, over the years since the SLMRT service began, all casualties have been helped to safety, but with rising numbers of people taking to the hills, it is important to prepare and take precautions before heading out for a walk.
“Even in Summer the weather can change quickly, and what began as a fine day can deteriorate in a short time, so it’s really important that people follow a number of basic safety rules before they set out,” says Davis. “First, check the weather forecast and ensure that if you decide to head out that you have the right gear and let someone know what time you expect to return. After that, a common sense approach should reduce your level of risk and ensure you have an enjoyable day.”
The Sligo Walks team have, in conjunction with SLMRT, produced a video series highlighting the precautions a walker should take, as well as dealing with areas such as First Aid and what steps to take in an emergency. These videos, along with lots of other helpful advice, are available for download from the SligoWalks.ie website.
“We created these trails for the enjoyment of the public and for the promotion of general health and wellbeing,” says Ray O’Grady of Sligo Walks. “Our overarching aim is to ensure that anyone of any age and level of fitness can enjoy the walks on our doorstep and take in the stunning scenery that this county is famed for. We wanted to bring that measure of extra safety and this is why we introduced these markers.”
The markers are a first for Sligo, and feedback so far has been very positive. It is hoped that in the future other walks will be able to avail of additional safety measures like these, helping to make our walks in Sligo safer for all to enjoy.
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