Brandon Hill in Graignamanagh and the South Leinster Way are among 31 walking trails that will be funded as part of the Governments 'Our Rural Future' programme.
The funding was announced this morning (Wednesday) by Minister Heather Humphreys and includes the addition of 31 new walking trails to her Department’s Walks Scheme and funding for a number of new Rural Recreation Officers.
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 are will now be 80 trails across the country 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.
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 eight 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.
Making the announcement Minister Humphreys 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.
Welcoming the news, Mayor Andrew McGuinness said, "this is fantastic news for County Kilkenny and I'm delighted to welcome it this morning as it will be of great benefit both in a tourism sense and for recreation.
"The pandemic has shown us the importance of our outdoor recreation spaces and we have all become very familiar with our many walkways and trails so this funding comes at a great time.
"I want to thank Minister Humphreys for considering Kilkenny in this tranche of allocations and of course encourage her to keep Kilkenny high on her agenda. I look forward to seeing these projects come to fruition."
Deputy John Paul Phelan said that, under the scheme, funding will be provided to farmers and other landowners to maintain the trails that travel through their holdings:
“A total of 28 landowners will receive payment for maintenance of the 104km South Leinster Way, while an additional 9 landowners will receive payment to maintain trails along the 19km Brandon Hill loop walk”, Deputy Phelan commented. “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.
“These trails will further enhance our outdoor amenities in Kilkenny and the experience of visitors to rural towns and villages, which we were all so grateful to have on our doorsteps during the Covid-19 pandemic."
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