Joyce Country and Western Lakes Geopark

The geopark acts as a connector for the 20 local communities to key development resources which helps them preserve and develop community facilities, culture, heritage, local businesses and jobs. Our region has 20,000 people in 1500km2. It is under-explored in tourism, and subject to decline of services and population. We inform and support and promote mainly through local voluntary community councils, interest groups, and more than 100 local businesses, providing training and skills development.


County Galway and County Mayo



Type of organisation:

NGO/ community-based organisation/ charity


  • Active citizenship
  • Arts and Culture
  • Education and training
  • Employment and job creation
  • Environment
  • Heritage
  • Poverty alleviation
  • Rural development
  • Science
  • Services for older people
  • Services for people with disabilities
  • Services for Travellers and ethnic minorities
  • Social inclusion
  • Sport and exercise
  • Sustainable development
  • Unemployment
  • Urban development
  • Volunteering
  • Young people / youth work


  • Development of education and training materials and programmes
  • Digitalization
  • European learning networks and exchanges
  • Community outreach and engagement
  • Cultural and artistic innovation
  • Governance
  • Policy, advocacy and campaigns
  • Research
  • Scientific innovation
  • Technological innovation


The host of the geopark Comharchumann Dhúiche Sheoigheach (CDS), is a long-established development cooperative focused particularly on the Irish speaking areas in two counties. CDS is the signee of the 2022 application for UNESCO Global Geopark designation.

CDS is supported at community level by the cross community representative group JCWL GeoEnterprise. The geopark and its development is a collaboration between local villages/towns through the two community representative groups, a state agency focused on development in Irish speaking areas (Údarás na Gaeltachta), two county councils (Galway and Mayo), the national earth science agency (Geological Survey Ireland), other state agencies and institutes representing tourism and natural resources management and education, and private philanthropic supporters.

Daily operations are managed by the geopark staff, this includes community and business development and networking, geology, education, tourism, applications for future funding.

EU Project Experience

Substantial experience

European Evaluation Network for Rural Development Help Desk – Team Leader 2008-2010

European Network for Rural Development - Contact Point, expert

Support to preparation of Romania’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 (EuropeAid) - RD Expert 2013-2015

Biogas3 Project (sustainable small-scale biogas from agri-food waste) - Ireland manager 2014-2016

Mid-termevaluation Kosovo Agriculture and Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 - Evaluation expert

Improvement of performance and quality of public extension service in the livestock sector Albania – KE3 2017-2019

 EU Funding Goals

By 2024 we are on track to achieve UNESCO Global Geopark designation. There are currently 177 UGGs across all continents, and numbers are increasing steadily. This major international brand is part of a dynamic network where members are committed to work together and exchange ideas of best practice and join in common projects funded from a variety of sources to raise the quality standards of all products and practices of a UNESCO Global Geopark. Our Management Master Plan through to 2028 provides our roadmap for achieving and retaining the UGG status.

During 2023 and 2024 we aim to:

  • i) strengthen the awareness within all the communities of the opportunities for sustainable development within the geopark. We will be setting up more bi-lingual information panels and signage, hosting forums and making use of digital platforms for sharing development ideas, providing training and support for current and new businesses and achieving their commitment to the geopark code of practice;
  • ii) encourage standards in sustainable management of resources (water, energy, waste), and support related assistance for homes and businesses;
  • iii) develop and implement a system and partnerships with site owners and others on protection and enhancement of geosites and the geopark’s natural environment;
  • iv) identify and communicate the defining characteristics of JCWL visitor experiences;
  • v) Develop community-based educational and interpretation programmes.

During 2025 to 2028 we aim to:

  • 1) improve the functionality and effectiveness of the communities network for local development, in more visible partnerships with local, national and European funders;
  • 2) consolidate and grow the geopark business network as an effective enterprise support tool which is valued by its members and managed professionally;
  • 3) develop the Geopark Visitor Experience Programme empowering businesses, communities and other stakeholders and aligning with evolving experience development initiatives at regional, national and international levels.


We offer access to local communities and their development representatives, a network of small businesses, local schools and research and training institutes, local authorities and other state development agencies, and sustainable resource management initiatives.

Our focus is sustainable rural and regional development.


Contact Name:

Michael Hegarty

Job Title:

Geopark Manager

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