Up to 30 more trails to be added next year
Mr Michael Ring TD, Minister for Rural and Community Development, today (Wednesday, 4 2019) announced the addition of 10 new trails to the Walks Scheme operated by his Department. These are the first trails to be added as part of a phased expansion that will see the Walks Scheme doubling in size to 80 trails when all phases of the expansion are complete
There are currently 39 trails covered by the Walks Scheme, involving 1,962 participant landowners and farmers. The Scheme contracts them, or their nominees, to undertake maintenance work on sections of National Waymarked Ways and other priority walks that traverse their lands. The Scheme is administered at a local level by Local Development Companies.
In announcing the expansion of the scheme, Minister Ring said:
“This expansion reflects the success of the Walks Scheme to-date in delivering high quality walking trails, and will help realise the Government’s commitment to double the number of trails in the scheme over time. Up to 40 new trails will be added when all phases of the expansion are complete.
“This first phase of the expansion will see an additional 283 participants receive payments for maintaining 10 separate trails located across 8 counties. These trails run for a combined length of approximately 500km, with 174 km of this going through private lands.
“I want to acknowledge the work of all the landowners involved in the scheme, some for many years, who help to maintain the trails to a high standard for the benefit of the huge number of locals and visitors who use these trails.”
Minister Ring continued:
“The expansion of the scheme follows a call for Expressions of Interest earlier this year which saw more than 50 applications being received.
“Up to 30 more walks will be added to the scheme over the next year, once my Department has completed a review of the Scheme and further trails are assessed to ensure that they meet the necessary standards to be included in the scheme.
Minister Ring concluded:
“This is good news for landowners and for the ever increasing number of people who want to get out and experience the beautiful outdoor areas that we have in such abundance. Investing in our trails also pays economic dividends. Thousands of tourists make walking, hiking, and other outdoor pursuits an important part of their stay in Ireland.”
Last year alone, almost 2.7 million overseas visitors engaged in some form of cross country walking or hiking. In addition, one in four of us included walking or hiking as part of our domestic holidays last year.
Cathaoirleach of Leitrim County Council Enda Mc Gloin commented on the announcement as follows: “ We warmly welcome the announcement that 24KM of the Leitrim Way is included in the first phase of the Walks Scheme expansion. This follows a number of meetings with Minster Ring and indeed his visit to our county in June of this year. We are delighted that our application has been considered favourably as we strive to develop the walking infrastructure in the county and further develop our Slow Adventure Tourism offering. I have no doubt that this announcement will generate further economic activity in our county”
The expansion of the Walks Scheme was also warmly welcomed by Dr. Liam Twomey, the Chairperson of Comhairle na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council) which is representative of the key stakeholders involved in outdoor recreation in the countryside.
Dr. Twomey said:
“I very much welcome the addition of these 10 trails to the Walks Scheme. Comhairle na Tuaithe has received a renewed mandate from Minister Ring to support the sustainable development of the outdoor recreation sector in Ireland and the expansion of the Walks Scheme is one of a number of promising initiatives that I expect will assist the sector in delivering on its potential.”
The first phase of the expansion will also include the appointment of an additional Rural Recreation Officer in County Leitrim to assist in delivering the Scheme.