All this week, the Kilkenny People is conducting a poll to ascertain people's thoughts on the proposed, new hard surface pathway to be constructed along the River Barrow from Athy to St Mullins, taking in Leighlinbridge, Bagenalstown, Goresbridge and Graignamanagh.
According to the promoters of the plan, Inland Waterways, the planning application is for “an upgrading of the existing navigation towpath - The National Way-marked Way along the Grand Canal – Barrow Line and the River Barrow.”
This upgrading is hotly disputed by many local people. According to Inland Waterways, it will provide a multi-use shared leisure route through Rathangan, Monasterevin, Vicarstown, Athy, Carlow, Leighlinbridge, Bagenalstown, Goresbridge, Graignama -nagh and St. Mullins.
“Once the work is complete on the 115km route, Waterways Ireland will work with the local business and tourism providers to develop the route into a Blueway, a 'slow' tourism product, focusing on leisure activities,” Inland Waterways added. The campaign against the path is led by journalist and broadcaster, Olivia O'Leary who was reared in Co Carlow close to the banks of the Barrow and has strong links with Graignamanagh.
Ms O’Leary, who chairs the Save the Barrow Line campaign, pointed out that the Barrow is a Special Area of Conservation under the EU habitats directive, while Carlow Co Council’s draft development plan for 2015-2021 promises to “protect and enhance” its natural heritage and landscape.
“The grassy towpath of the Barrow waterway is to me the most beautiful place on God’s earth,” she said.
“Not the sound of a car, not the sound of your own steps to be heard, and your feet telling you that you are walking on soft grassy earth,” she added.
RTE's Dick Warner, has called the stretch between Graignamanagh and St Mullins; “perhaps the most beautiful riverside walk in these islands”.
He is opposed to the hard surface and says the faster traffic it would facilitate would be a real deterrent to wildlife and,: “is a real threat to this wild place,” he said.