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This research project investigated the community’s current level of heritage awareness in County Wicklow. The study was initiated by Wicklow County Council and the Heritage Council in response to objective 1, action 1.2 of the County Wicklow heritage plan 2004-2008, which pointed to the need to undertake a study to determine public attitudes towards heritage and to gauge the current level of awareness about heritage in the county. The findings of this research are being used on an ongoing basis by the Wicklow County Council and the Wicklow Heritage Forum to inform the decision making process concerning the direction and priorities of the County Wicklow Heritage Plan. This research has also directly influenced the bi-annual Wicklow Heritage Newsletter initiatives that provide heritage training for members of the public and the promotion of best practice in the provision and development of walking trails. The Heritage Office of Wicklow County Council and the support of the Heritage Council commissioned Dublin Institute of Technology to do this research. The study was carried out by Anne Dagg from Dublin Institute of Technology working alone under the direction of Dr. Pat Dargan. This is the first such study carried out at county level and is being used as a model by other local authorities. A scientifically based mix of qualitative and quantitative data collected by postal survey and face to face interview is used in the compiling of the study. The parameters of the study are modelled on the 1995 National Awareness Survey carried out by Lansdowne Market Research for the Heritage Council. The study shows that Wicklow people consider the protection of heritage as very important and equate the protection Wicklow’s heritage with “protecting our identity”. Although they are most aware of built heritage, they are primarily interested in visiting heritage within Wicklow than in other areas of Ireland. They have a strong sense of awareness of old architectural features as heritage while recognising that modern structures have the potential to become heritage in the future. Residents see Wicklow County Council, the Department of the Environment and the Office of Public Works as the organisations that have the greatest positive effect in heritage in the country. Residents believe that property developers and the Department of Agriculture are the agents with the greatest negative effect. There is a low level of knowledge of the laws protecting heritage and there is also a lack of awareness of the County Councils heritage role and initiatives. In contrast there is a strong sense of government participation in heritage and approval of incentives by the government to encourage heritage preservation. Overall the most intentionally experienced form of heritage was buildings. The most frequently visited heritage was Glendalough Monastic Settlement, Wicklow Gaol and Baltinglass Abbey. The natural heritage of greatest interest was coastal walking routes, Wicklow Mountains National Park and Glendalough. Also there is a strong sense of utilising the natural environment for leisure activities such as walking. Visiting heritage sites is seen as the main source of information on heritage while the majority of people feel they need more information and are interested in improving their knowledge. The main motivational factor for visiting heritage was physical beauty of the areas visited followed by the need for relaxation and a “day out”. Factors cited as inhibiting people from visiting heritage were the lack of information and cost while for the 15-24 age group the main reason was a lack of transport. People are deterred from visiting heritage by poorly maintained walking routes, car park charges and entry fees. They are also concerned about the problem of litter.
Dagg, A.: Heritage Awareness in County Wicklow.M. Phil Thesis. Dublin Institute of Technology, 2008.