As part of the Trail Gazers Project which looks to develop walking trails sustainably, a group of stakeholders, business owners and members of community groups met at Sligo Airport in Strandhill yesterday, Tuesday November 2nd. The aim was to inform those in attendance of plans to develop and protect the walks and to invite input from the public.
The meeting began with a description by the Trail Gazers team of current and recent works on the Queen Maeve Trail on Knocknarea and on the coastal walk at Killaspugbrone. Those in attendance were invited to provide feedback to this presentation, and to put forward ideas and proposals for the development of these walks in a sustainable and manageable way.
As we have seen in recent times, with people staycationing in Ireland due to the pandemic and also because of climate change concerns, there has been a significant increase in walking numbers on these trails. Digital counters have been installed at four locations along the routes and these statistics, presented to the meeting by Sorcha Sheehy of Sligo County Council, identify trends relating to the busiest periods for walking at the locations, and which access points are the most utilised.
It was found that while both walks are very popular with locals and visitors alike, there are challenges ahead in particular in relation to the Killaspugbrone walk. The walk is located in a Special Area of Conservation, and the terrain has also been subject to coastal erosion. In addition, most walkers access the walk at the access point beside the cannon in Strandhill, which suggests that other access paths to the walk could be created to accommodate walkers and to ease congestion during the Summer.
Several other other suggestions and recommendations were put forward by those in attendance, and Michael Carty of Sligo County Council thanked the public for their input.
“We need to manage these walks, develop them in a way that will encourage people to walk to improve physical and mental health. But we also need to do so in a sustainable way which respects the landscape, creates awareness of our heritage and maintains environmental awareness. We also want to include the community in forward planning, and this includes businesses who want to better engage with the increasing numbers of people who walk on Knocknarea or at Killaspugbrone, but we all need to cooperate in a constructive and balanced way. I thank all of those who attended today and provided insight during the discussions.”
The Trailgazers workshop was led by Michael Carty and Sorcha Sheehy of Sligo County Council, by Micheál Ó Domhnaill of Omedia and facilitated by the staff of Sligo Airport.
Trail Gazers is an initiative which involves 10 different European partners and which aims to revitalise, regenerate and re-imagine rural communities by developing a ‘shared vision’ for the future sustainable development of the trail site, its natural and cultural assets and surrounding towns, villages and countryside. For more visit www.trailgazers.eu.