As evidenced in Co Mayo with the success of the Great Western Greenway, there is a tourism spin-off for parts of the country where jobs are scarce.
Negotiations with landowners have been successful in Mayo and along the route of the Great Southern Trail, in Co Limerick, for instance, but serious difficulties have arisen which are halting progress in other areas, including Co Kerry.
A proposed South Kerry Greenway along a disused railway line on the Ring of Kerry, from Glenbeigh to Caherciveen, has been hailed as worldclass and something that will outshine the Mayo greenway. However, 23 landowners are not happy and some want the greenway rerouted.
Kerry County Council has already secured €4m for the 32km greenway and county chief executive Moira Murrell has warned money could be lost if progress is delayed. The greenway would give a boost to an emigration- hit area. It would be a real shame if it is lost.
Parts of the route runs along a hillside, commanding spectacular views of Dingle Bay, the Skelligs and the mountains of the Iveragh and Dingle peninsulas. An old railway bridge into Caherciveen, still in fairly good condition, would also be used and the greenway would end at Renard, from where the ferry departs for Valentia.
The council does not want to change its county development plan to allow the route move away from the old line at certain locations: were the plan to change, other landowners would have to be dealt with, which might create further problems.
Also, plans to extend the Great Southern Trail along a 50km stretch of another disused railway line from the Kerry/Limerick border, near Abbeyfeale, to Fenit, outside Tralee, are facing strong opposition from farmers, some of whom claim rights to the CIE-owned line. All of which is leading to frustration among walkers and people in tourism.
In contrast, despite the very wet, winter, Waterford City and County Council has continued to press ahead with a 48km greenway along another old, CIE-owned railway line from the city to Dungarvan. The full greenway through the Deise is due to open in the summer. Failte Ireland is promoting it.
Great Southern Trail chairman Liam O’Mahony is concerned there’s “no apparent impetus’’ by Kerry County Council to extend the trail through north Kerry. “Thus, the opportunity to have Ireland’s longest greenway (90km) at the doorstep of Kerry and Shannon airports is being lost and so is the spinoff to local businesses,’’ he says.