McNamara seeks community buy-in for Greenway projects

Independent TD Michael McNamara has welcomed the allocation of funding to separate Greenway projects in West and East Clare but has warned that both will require the buy-in of the local community, particularly landowners, to ensure their successful delivery.

€255,000 has been allocated to Clare County Council in respect of the proposed West Clare Railway Greenway. The funding is targeted at bringing a 20km priority section from Kilrush to Kilkee to preliminary design and environmental evaluation.

Deputy McNamara said, “This is a small but significant step towards delivering what has the potential to be a very significant tourism infrastructure project for the county.”

He continued, “I want to pay tribute to Cllr Ian Lynch and his Council colleagues for their ongoing commitment to the West Clare Greenway project. I would urge the Local Authority to adopt a collaborative approach with landowners for the entire proposed route from Ennis to Kilkee. We need to incentivise landowners and generate the necessary buy-in that will ensure the delivery of tourism infrastructure that is good for the local community and everyone who visits Clare.”

Deputy McNamara has also welcomed the allocation of €140,000 for a design of a Greenway from Limerick to Scarriff, which will start from the existing greenway to UL, crossing the River Shannon over the Black Bridge and following the old Errina canal to O’Briensbridge and onwards to Scariff.

“This is a project that I have been advocating for since I was first elected to the Dáil in 2011 and is one that has the potential to deliver a tourism boost to Clare and Limerick similar to what has been delivered by the Waterford and Westport Greenways for their local areas,” commented the Scariff native.

He added, “Lough Derg’s outdoor recreation, dining, accommodation, cultural and craft experiences have proven to be a draw for visitors from across Ireland and abroad through the years and even with the launch in 2018 of the Lough Derg Blueway, the potential for further growth exists. Providing a direct link with the Mid West’s largest population centre is key to developing tourism in the area.

“Hiking, cycling and hillwalking tourism is huge in Ireland but examples of existence of such activities occurring across county boundaries are few. The Greenway linking the existing Blueway with Limerick City will open the existing abundance of loops, cycle routes and other outdoor activity trails in each county to a much wider domestic market.

“Many people living in Clare would argue that our tourism offering is of a higher quality and much more diverse than many other counties but that we are simply not benefiting economically as we should. We are the fifth most visited county in Ireland, yet we are well down the table in relation to spend. Tourism spend figures show that Clare recorded 750,000 visitors with an overall spend of €158 million. That’s an average spend per person of €210 but this compares unfavourably to our neighbouring counties of Tipperary (€458) and Limerick (€405).

“Greenways are one of the biggest success stories of Irish tourism that have brought significant, positive benefits to local communities. The Wild Atlantic Way is a good example of how the wider tourism offering along the west coast can be marketed and packaged under one initiative and can consequently deliver an economic boost to the areas concerned. The Lough Derg Blueway has demonstrated the quality of the tourism product on offer but we should not stop there.

“The viability of the proposed Greenway will depend on the backing of local businesses and communities who ultimately would be required to help to shape its future direction and promotion,” concluded Deputy McNamara.