Schools and community groups from the Athlone environs are being encouraged to get involved in biodiversity project along the Old Rail Trail.
Speaking with regard to the biodiversity programme, Project Ecologist Goska Wilkowska said, “the greenway is a great resource. I have recently cycled the route and mapped several areas of biodiversity interest. There are many different plant species growing along the trail.
“At the western end there are a variety of beautiful wildflowers and close to the towns you can see many plants that have seeded from people’s gardens”.
Goska explained that in the coming weeks she is planning a series of projects and awareness raising events with schools and community groups along the route.
“We hope groups from Athlone and its hinterland will get involved in surveying plants and animals along the trail and I will be working with TY students to develop biodiversity projects focusing on the trail,” Goska commented.
Heritage Officer, Melanie McQuade welcomed the initiative, highlighting the noted ecologist’s involvement.
“We are delighted to have Goska working on this project. It’s a great opportunity for local groups to explore the biodiversity of the Old Rail Trail with an ecologist. Another aim of the project is to develop an action plan to improve biodiversity along the Old Rail Trail and to help make it a pollinator friendly route,” Melanie stated.
The project is funded mainly by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with support from Westmeath County Council, through a new grant scheme for implementing actions of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021.
“We have funding for seven primary schools, three secondary schools and four community groups to engage with the project. Expressions of interest are currently being sought from schools and community groups along the Old Rail Trail who would be interested in participating in surveys and biodiversity walks in their locality,” Melanie concluded.