The World Canals Conference took place this week in Athlone and brought together canal and waterway enthusiasts, professionals and academics from around the world.
During the conference delegates exchanged ideas about canal management and development including the protection of historic features, technical developments, revitalization of canal systems and harbours, recreational opportunities and the promotion and presentation of canal history. Ways of promoting tourism and invigorating rural economic development and urban renewal are also explored.
As part of the formal opening reception, Town Mayor, Cllr. Frankie Keena, afforded those who facilitated the choosing of Athlone for the two day conference a civic address in the surrounds of Athlone Castle and Visitor Centre.
Cllr. Keena expressed a warm welcome to delegates and particularly noted the honour bestowed in hosting the two day conference.
“I would like to sincerely thank you for choosing Athlone as the venue for this year’s conference, we are very honoured to be chosen and to sit in such a distinguished list of venues.
“The 2017 conference was held in New York State, the Grand Canal in China will host the conference in 2019 while Leipzig Germany will be the venue in 2020.
“In mentioning next year’s location I also welcome our Chinese delegation who are the hosts of the 2019 World Canal Conference,” Cllr. Keena commented.
Acknowledging the efforts of Waterways Ireland and the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland who were involved in the event organisation, the Mayor reflected on the conference ethos.
“Since its inception in 1988, the World Canal Conference brings together hundreds of canal and waterway enthusiasts, water management agencies, professionals and academics from across the world to exchange ideas about canal management and development.
“The conference explores ways of promoting tourism and invigorating rural economic development and urban renewal and this is a key objective for us in Athlone including the recognition of our own canal. In mentioning our canal I would like to thank the Athlone Canal Heritage Group for all the work they do on a voluntary basis in maintaining and promoting this lovely asset. If you have time to stroll along the canal you will see the excellent heritage information boards that they have erected along the route,” the Mayor added.
Addressing the town’s heritage and tourist traits, Cllr. Keena enthused with regard to what Athlone has to offer the visitor and encouraged those in attendance during the conference to take time out to view the various amenities.
“Tourist attractions such as Athlone Castle, Luan Gallery, the Old Rail Trail, Shannon cruises, fishing, four major golf courses, state of the art sports facilities and a large choice of fine accommodation, restaurants and quaint pubs makes Athlone and district a must visit location.
This town is rich in culture and heritage covering such structures as the castle, No.1 gun battery, white railway bridge, churches and the old town wall remains and Custume Barracks.
Athlone has the distinction of being the home place of the great world renowned tenor John Count McCormack whose work is exhibited here in this castle,” Cllr. Keena noted.
Highlighting the expansive employer network within the town and the progressive work of the AIT, Cllr. Keena made reference to Athlone’s status as a regional growth centre.
“Athlone has been given the status of a regional growth centre under the National Planning Framework 2040 plan. This has the potential to attract further investment and infrastructure to the town which will benefit the whole midland region. We are always open for new ideas and projects that would bring economic gain to the town and region. All of the above make Athlone a highly desirable place to live, work and visit,” the Town Mayor concluded.