Galway City Tribune - Opinion Piece
Roger bids to restore the sparkle to SalthillAugust 30, 2012 - 12:45pm
THERE was a time when Salthill was a holiday resort, when it came alive in the summer and local people made their living working hard running B&Bs, cafes, bars and shops aimed at serving visiting families from all over Ireland and further afield.
But as holiday trends changed and Irish families discovered the sunny beaches of Spain, Salthill lost its way. In the 80s there was an attempt at regenerating the area when the Government introduced tax breaks for building holiday apartments.
Then the recession hit and suddenly everyone was in the same boat, although in Salthill’s case, this may finally help restore the resort to its former glory.
Roger O’Sullivan, local businessman and chairman of the Salthill Tourism and Development Association (STADA), believes his native neighbourhood has everything.
It is this belief and passion that is partly driving a hugh effort to create a thriving community as Roger believes without community, nothing can progress.
Roger is third generation in the family business which established the Galleon Grill in Salthill. Four years ago, he returned from the UK to take over the reins when his father John retired.
But being an energetic thirtysomething, Roger isn’t content just to manage the family business, he wants to enhance Salthill because he sees what he describes as “the bigger picture”.
“The way I see it, we should be doing everything to make Salthill a happening place, somewhere where people want to come to either live, holiday or socialise.
“In the last five years, we have seen an increase in the number of new cafés and bars opening, which is breathing new life into the area. We have also managed to create a community spirit and have enjoyed a good few events locally like Tostal, the Mumford & Son gig in the Park, a nine-day Salthill Festival to coincide with the Volvo Ocean Race Finale at the Docks and recently we brought the Titanic here from Mayo and that has drawn a lot of visitors.
“We have also seen a lot of activities on the Ladies Beach, water sports at Rusheen Bay and the Ironman at the weekend, which was a great coup to get last year.”
Roger is certainly full of energy and enthusiasm and is rediscovering old friendships in the area. In fact, like the Galleon, many of the local businesses have now been taken over by the next generation, his own peers.
You could say that Roger and his peers possibly have a wider view of what Salthill should be or could be and that this has injected new life into the neighbourhood.
To hear Roger talk of Salthill, he could be an estate agent selling the area to a prospective buyer.
“Older people will remember Salthill as a place to go for the nightlife but it has changed so much, even in the last five years. It has the natural amenities and beauty of the sea and all the water activities around that. It has the Prom, which has really become popular in recent years by anyone who loves walking. We have free parking – that’s really a draw. And we are now developing a real community and it feels like an urban suburb, so close to the city centre, where families and retired people alike can live.
“The business community is really growing. The day the generator broke during our recent Festival and within a short time a number of local businesspeople were down with jump leads was the day I realised we were finally a community. It made my day.”
Roger was referring to the day the inflatable village feel flat during the Salthill Festival. Thankfully, it happened early in the morning and was fixed before the general public was aware that it had ever happened.
For more, read this week's Galway City Tribune.