Controversial boardwalk project back on the agenda

Controversial plans to construct a boardwalk along the waterfront in Athlone are back on the agenda.

Councillors were informed at Monday’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District that local authorities are being given the opportunity to apply for funding from Fáilte Ireland for large-scale projects costing €200,000 or more. The scheme is linked to the Ireland’s Ancient East initiative, which aims to invest in projects that will enhance the tourist potential of the country.

Director of services, Barry Kehoe, told the chamber the funding allowed the council an opportunity to undertake projects with the potential to benefit Athlone. Enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the waterfront by developing a boardwalk was mentioned as a project of interest. Mr Kehoe told the chamber the project would cost an estimated €1 million and would fit in with Athlone’s local development plan.

Mr Kehoe also mentioned Portlick, Glasson, and the islands located on Lough Ree as other projects worth examining. Councillors were told that further funding for smaller scale projects below the value of €200,000 is expected to be made available later this year.

Sinn Fein councillor Paul Hogan, referred to the funding as “tremendous news”. He said that enhancing the waterfront area has been on the agenda for almost 10 years now, initially being included as part of the Waterfront Strategy. He said the Greenway project has the potential to bring people into Athlone but that work was now needed to improve the tourism experience offered in the town.

Cllr Hogan acknowledged that some residents have concerns and objections regarding any work on the waterfront, and suggested public consultation in order to satisfy those concerns.

Cllr Tom Farrell (FG ) voiced his support for the undertaking of work in Portlick, something he says has been mooted for a long time without any action being taken.

Barry Kehoe told councillors that there is “no stated upper limit” on the amount of funding, but that Fáilte Ireland will “probably provide 70 or 80 per cent of the cost”. The difference would then be supplemented from the council’s coffers. He added that the council set aside €190,000 many years ago as part of the Waterfront Strategy, putting it in a good position to support the cost of such a project.

He concluded by saying that the waterfront area is a fantastic asset to the town, but that “the challenge is to make the most of it without seriously impacting people” in the locality.

The council will meet in the coming weeks to discuss possible projects for undertaking, with the aim of submitting applications before the end of July.

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