Doonbeg, Ireland (CNN)Donald Trump wants to build a wall. But it’s not the one you’re thinking of.
About 8,000 kilometers (4,970 miles) from the US on the other side of the Atlantic, a familiar debate between local residents of an Irish town and environmental activists is in full swing.
Three years ago, Trump bought a golf course and resort in the rural village of Doonbeg, County Clare. Set along 4.5 kilometers (2.8 miles) of Ireland’s Atlantic-swept coastline, the location is picture perfect, but it has one significant problem: erosion.
Even before Trump’s involvement, there was environmental opposition to developing the site into a golf course because of fears over the delicate habitat in the sand dunes.
Tony Lowes, a native New Yorker and the Director of the Friends of the Irish Environment has actively campaigned against the development of both the golf course and a wall along this section of coastline.
“They had a grandiose idea that they could build a wall and stop the sea. That was it,” he tells CNN.
Lowes says a wall that would impede the circulation of sand would be a violation of the conservation objectives agreed in its initial development.
“Sand dunes are one of our best coastal defenses against frequencies and storms — unless of course, you build a wall in front of them,” Lowes said.
After a failed initial attempt to construct a barricade without a construction permit, Trump filed in May 2016 for permission to build a 2.5 kilometer-long wall (1.5 miles) running adjacent to a stretch of public beach. Local authorities filed a counter request citing environmental concerns and asking for clarification on 51 points.
Trump had six months to respond, but instead withdrew the application in early December 2016.
Later that month, when he was President-elect, Trump refiled a new application, which seeks permission to build two rock walls supported by sheet metal stretching along two opposite ends of the dunes, totaling 883 meters (0.5 miles.) A decision is due later this month.
Clare County Council told CNN they are not able to comment on the proposed development while the application process is ongoing.
An international group of coastal experts wrote in a letter to Clare County Council that the scaled down plan is “far from benign.” Friends of the Irish Environment, along with The National Trust for Ireland and Save the Waves agree.
“It seems the sand dunes are collapsing around us, but that’s part of a natural process,” Lowes said.
“If you put a wall up you stop all that flexibility.”
Not all agree.
As a child, Doonbeg’s Rita McInerney spent Sundays playing in the dunes — and as an adult she walks her dog along the soft sand beach.
“Nature has a powerful way of destroying itself anyways,” McInerney, whose family has lived in Doonbeg for seven generations, tells CNN.
Dave Flynn, who heads the West Coast Surf Club and works as a civil engineer, says he understands that the Trump Organization wants to protect their asset — but he believes the proposed wall isn’t a permanent solution.
“We know it’s a gamble if its left to its own, but by putting up a wall, once you start you can’t stop.”
As most in the town of Doonbeg hope for the local council to approve the wall, those opposing say they are hoping the international attention might help change attitudes.
“If the project is completed as we think it will be, it marks the fossilization of one of the finest dune systems along our coast,” Lowes says.
“We haven’t got enough left to give them away to make sandlots for millionaires to play with.”