It was refreshing to read in our local press that senior engineer with Galway County Council, Liam Gavin, is actively engaged in promoting the development of the proposed Connemara Greenway along a route that will take it from Oughterard to Clifden, and that this worthy project has the full support of so many of Galways county councillors.
Though not directly involved, Galway An Taisce members have been aware that representatives of Taisce’s Education Cycling Unit, and the Galway Cycling Campaign have made many helpful submissions during the course of the Bord Pleanala planning process. Taisce members in Galway city have been kept abreast at all times of this very worthwhile projects progress.
It is now, almost 13 years since I first wrote to Gus McCarthy, then a Senior Executive Planner with the GCC. In that letter, I had alerted him, on behalf of An Taisce, of our concern that the construction of a number of new houses along the route of the old Galway–Clifden rail line may in future hamper the promotion of a then, yet-to-be-developed, walking/cycling route.
In the intervening years, Taisce’s attention in Galway, particularly, was being taken up with the whole issue surrounding negative impacts the Celtic Tiger ‘property bubble’ was having on our wider rural landscapes. That being said, An Taisce has been directly involved in supporting many other ‘Greenway’ projects around Ireland, while we were at all times, fully engaged as part of the ‘consultation’ process here in Galway.
In Co Kerry. The Kerry Association of An Taisce and members of the Laune Mountaineering Club had collaborated as far back as 1985 to set up the first long distance walking path (LDWP) in Kerry, The Kerry Way. Over the period 1985 – 1990, the section Killarney to Glenbeigh was developed, with assistance of local mountaineering clubs and the cooperation of Killarney National Park and Coillte. Since then, the route has been extended around the Ring of Kerry and back to Killarney and it is extensively used by visitors and local people alike. An Taisce has remained involved in this project and has representatives on the Management Committee. Developing a walking route is not just a matter of putting down marking posts and waiting for the public to come. Routes require promotion and continuous maintenance. This is where local community effort is required in support of our cash-strapped county councils. The public and landowners must always remain involved.
Everyone in Ireland is aware of the huge success of the Great Western-Achill Island to Westport ‘Greenway’. Similar positive outcomes await us in Co. Galway, when this project gets off the ground.
In Limerick City An Taisce is currently involved in making submissions towards the development of the ‘Athlunkard Bridge to Park Canal’ Walking & Cycling Amenity. Here in Galway we continue to participate as members of Galway City Council Transport & Infrastructure SPC (Strategic Policy Committee), which is promoting the opening of a Roscam to Silverstrand ‘Greenway’.
These ‘Greenway’ projects, when developed in rural areas have the beneficial effect of promoting rural tourism, and in supporting the creation of new jobs in the hospitality sectors and helps promote use of local B&Bs, pubs and restaurants etc.
It is a pity, therefore to note, that there are some landowners who are still prepared to object to these positive attempts for the promotion of rural tourism, and the positive impacts to be had in supporting Ireland’s rural economy. Access routes over private land need to be agreed with the landowners, who must always be part of the consent process and to the routes being kept open for a specified period of time. There is no obligation for permission to be renewed and, frequently, routes have to be closed and alternative routes developed. This creates problems for walkers using maps which have become out of date.
County Galways mayor Tom Welby, not normally a supporter of An Taisce, is to be congratulated for standing up with his support of this project. Well done to all others also in support of this worthy scheme!
Finally, the proposed facilities, now being implemented around the city, will compliment the Government’s Smarter Travel Initiatives by promoting an increase in cycling and walking, thus generating a modal shift away from the too high use of motor vehicles. A high quality, well maintained cycle/pedestrian route serves as a valuable amenity to the local community and wider areas.
An Taisce members in Galway City would like to point out that, while we welcome the construction of cycle routes by all local authorities, whether in Galway City, in county areas or elsewhere, there is concern being expressed by some county councillors that the continued promotion of the regeneration of the rail network from Athenry to Tuam, even onwards to Sligo, may prevent the immediate development of a proposed ‘Greenway’ project along this route. I would hope that this issue can be fully resolved and would caution councillors to bear in mind the potential much larger benefit of a yet to be completed rail route connecting the cities of Cork, Limerick, Galway to Sligo (even Derry) and its positive impacts for economic regeneration all along this ‘Atlantic Corridor’.
Climate Change, and the need to get people out of their cars and onto modern public transport, is the name of the game. There are many alternative routes to be looked at by which to facilitate a Tuam to Athenry Walking & Cycling route!
An Taisce – Galway Association,