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As part of a nationwide upgrade to existing long-route walks, Minister for Rural & Community Development Heather Humphreys TD has announced a new funding scheme which will have an impact on walks in Sligo and elsewhere. The walks in question – 31 in total across 13 counties – will ensure that our walks and trails will be developed to the high standard required to attract visitors and increase tourism, as well as serving local communities and walking groups.
The two trails impacted by the scheme in Sligo are the Aughris Coastal Walk and the Lung Lough Gara Walk. The Aughris Coastal Walk is located in the west of the county. It was recently developed as a beautiful 4km coastal walk which borders and traverses land owned by the public. This scheme provides compensation for the landowners to maintain the trail that passes through their land.
The Lung Lough Gara Walk lies to the south and east of the county, and is part of a longer walk that travels the length of the country from Cork to Cavan, linking up with the Ulster Way. This walk will be known as the Beara-Breifne Way. The Lung Lough Gara Walk will form part of both this walk, and that of the Miners Way & Historical Trail, as well as being a pleasant walk in its own right. Again, the scheme allows for payments to local landowners for the upkeep and maintenance of the trail.
The Sligo Leader Partnership and Sligo County Council have been working with communities, landowners and other stakeholders to develop these and other walks throughout the county. Sligo has developed an excellent walking product throughout the county, and information on over 50 walking trails can be found on the SligoWalks.ie website.
Ray O’Grady of Sligo County Council said that: “The work that Sligo County Council and the Templeboy Aughris Rural Action committee have done to develop the walk at Aughris is a great example of community-Council cooperation. Sligo County Council would like to thank the community and landowners for their hard work and cooperation in developing this fine walk, one which can be enjoyed at any time of year.”
David Conlon, Rural Recreation Officer with County Sligo Leader Partnership, added that “The Lung Lough Gara Walk is part of an ancient walking route that was important over many centuries. To have the walk upgraded means that many more people will be able to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors. Sligo Leader works closely with our partners to revitalise rural communities, and this work makes our countryside more accessible to many more people.”
The full text of Minister Humphreys’ Press Release is below.
Our Rural Future: Minister Humphreys announces funding for 31 walking trails to boost outdoor recreation and rural tourism
· 31 new trails added in 13 counties under Government’s ‘Walks Scheme’
· Rural Recreation Officers to be appointed to enhance our outdoor amenities
· Department to work with over 2,400 farmers and landowners to promote rural tourism
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has today announced a major initiative for Rural Ireland, which includes the addition of 31 new walking trails to her Department’s Walks Scheme and funding for a number of new Rural Recreation Officers.
The 31 new trails across 13 counties are to be added to the ‘Walk’s Scheme’, which aims to open up our countryside to local walkers, hikers and tourists.
Under the scheme, funding is provided to farmers and other landowners to maintain the trails that travel through their holdings.
Today’s announcement means there will now be 80 trails under the Scheme, which is operated by the Department of Rural and Community Development in conjunction with the Local Development Companies (LDCs) and over 2,400 farmers and landowners in total.
The trails added today involve over 400 farmers and include the Dingle Way in County Kerry, St Declan’s Way in County Waterford, the Ballyhoura Way in County Limerick, the South Leinster Way in County Kilkenny and the Slí Gaeltacht Mhuscraí in County Cork.
The Cavan Way in County Cavan, the Wicklow Uplands Way in County Wicklow, the Lung/Lough Gara Way in County Roscommon and the Durrow Leafy Loop in County Sligo are also among the trails being added to the Scheme.
Additional funding will also be provided to the Local Development Companies that deliver the scheme locally, as well as for the salaries paid to the Rural Recreation Officers who play a vital role in delivering the Walks Scheme and developing the outdoor recreation sector locally. Minister Humphreys also today announced the creation of up to 8 new Rural Recreation Officer posts in addition to the 13 already in place. These are designed to further enhance our outdoor amenities and the experience of visitors to Rural Ireland.The announcement delivers on commitments in both the Programme for Government and Our Rural Future to increase the number of trails under the ‘Walks Scheme’ in order to boost outdoor recreation and tourism in rural towns and villages.
Minister Humphreys also today published a review of the Walks Scheme, which sets out a number of recommendations aimed at enhancing the Walks Scheme and the role of Rural Recreation Officers, and will be implemented in consultation with key stakeholders.
The Minister made the announcements during a visit to officially open St Declan’s Way in Co. Waterford, a 115km trail involving 45 farmers and landowners which is amongst the trails being added to the scheme.
The Minister said:
“Our walkways, trails, greenways, blueways and cycleways are a defining feature of Rural Ireland.
“They have been a godsend throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic – providing so many of us with the opportunity to get out for some exercise and to meet up with family and friends.
“Over the past number of months, we have seen unprecedented investment in our outdoor amenities, underpinned by the most ambitious ever policy for Rural Ireland, ‘Our Rural Future’.
“Today’s announcement is further action behind that policy. By adding 31 new trails to the Walks Scheme, we are opening up our rural countryside further to walkers, hikers, adventurists, cyclists, as well as domestic and international tourists.
“And it means we are investing in some of the most picturesque locations in the country, so that they can be enjoyed and experienced by millions of people every year.”
The Minister added:
“In rolling out the Walks Scheme, my Department works closely with our Local Development Companies, community groups and rural farmers and landowners. We are indebted to our farmers and other landowners throughout the country that facilitate access to these wonderful trails and who now, through this scheme, are being funded to maintain the walks to the high standard we have all come to expect.
“Another important part of today’s announcement is the decision to appoint up to 8 new Rural Recreation Officers, as well as improving the salaries of the Rural Recreation Officers that are already carrying out great work across the country. These individuals are crucial in implementing the Walks Scheme and working with all stakeholders to enhance our outdoor amenities.
“As Minister, I am committed to expanding the Walks Scheme so that more communities can reap the benefits.
“I am also committed to looking at further increasing the number of RROs nationwide based on the outcome of our new National Outdoor Recreation Strategy, which is currently being developed and which will make Rural Ireland an even better place to live, visit and raise a family.”
Minister Humphreys concluded:
“I am also today publishing a review of the Walks Scheme, which was carried out by Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (ORNI).
“The recommendations in the review are extensive, covering every aspect of scheme delivery and impacting across a range of stakeholders.
“Given the breadth of issues covered and that many impact beyond my Department, I intend to establish a stakeholder consultation group to explore the recommendations and how they could be implemented at a local level.
“Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the Local Development Companies, Trail management groups and especially the farmers and landowners for their excellent cooperation with my Department.”
The report on the review of the Walks Scheme can be on gov.ie here:
The Department of Rural and Community Development Press Office
01-773 6843 / 087-173 4633
Note to Photodesks:
Accompanying photographs to be circulated by David Clynch photography.
Notes to editor:
The Walks Scheme was launched in 2008 to facilitate the development and maintenance of key walking trails by private landholders. The scheme is administered by 16 Local Development Companies (LDCs) who deliver the scheme in their area on behalf of the Department. The Department funds Rural Recreation Officers (RROs) in 13 of these LDCs, with a contribution from Fáilte Ireland, to assist with the delivery of the Scheme and support other rural recreation initiatives at a local level.
Under the Programme for Government and Our Rural Future, the Department committed to doubling the number of trails under the Scheme to 80. Expressions of Interest were sought for trails to come onto the Scheme and 10 new trails were announced in December 2019 under Phase 1 of the expansion. The 31 additional trails being added today, as part of Phase 2, were drawn from the Expressions of Interest received as part of this process.
It was agreed that the 2nd phase of the expansion of the scheme should be informed by a comprehensive review of the delivery of the scheme and include a review of the role played by the RROs, the funding model applied and other relevant factors.
Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (ORNI) were appointed to undertake the review and submitted their report to the Department in July 2021. The report outlines a range of findings with associated recommendations including increased pay for RROs, additional funding for Local Development Companies that deliver the scheme and additional RRO posts.
The 31 new trails are as follows: