Install tourist trails on public land first

The news this week that the popular Great Western Greenway in Mayo has been blocked by a landowner comes as no surprise; it was only a matter of time before this happened, and we can only be thankful that it didn’t occur at the height of the tourist season.

This incident highlights the fragility of the permissive access model used by local authorities in providing badly-needed tourism infrastructure like cycling and walking trails. The policy of spending significant taxpayer funds on hard trails where the land remains in private hands is questionable when installing infrastructure designed to attract a key tourism segment that is as yet almost non-existent in Ireland but that is flourishing elsewhere.

There is an alternative that should be at the core of government policy; we should install such trails in the first instance on publicly-owned lands where costs are lower and where a critical mass of trails can be delivered more cost-effectively and with no threat of closure by individuals. Development of cycling and walking trails on the Royal and Grand Canal towpaths and the Barrow Way should be prioritised, along with any abandoned rail lines that are still in public ownership.

It is bizarre that in the same week that Mayo County Council finds itself in this impasse, a majority of their councillors are fighting hard to block the development of such a trail on the derelict Claremorris-Collooney rail line, despite the support of CIE and the Transport Minister for the project, and despite the fact that it would keep the line in public ownership. The irony that the issues with the Great Western Greenway are directly related to such a loss of a disused rail line seems to be lost on them.

John Mulligan

Boyle

Co Roscommon

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