Plans for the redevelopment of recreation and amenity facilities at Portlick were revealed at this week’s monthly meeting of Athlone Municipal District.
Speaking to council members, assistant planner Hugh O’Neill outlined research and actions to be taken in order to make the area more visitor friendly.
Mr O’Neill explained that the woods are less than 100 years old and that since the toilet block was opened and the first tree planted for the millennium forest in June 2000 not much had been done to the area.
Research of the area has highlighted some ongoing concerns including the lack of maintenance of existing routes, litter, illegal camping and fires, shooting, and damage to trees.
The council also needs to remove some unnecessary wire fences and deal with damage done to Quinn house ruins in the forest.
The council will now undertake a habitat survey and meet with National Parks and Wildlife Services and Coillte, and contact the National Trails Office before starting phase one of works in the area.
Councillors approved phase one which includes: tidying up car park, barriers, signage, etc; and installing picnic benches at the car park and ruins; construction of way mark trails; and promotion of trails with NTO.
During phase one a restriction on the use of trails by horses will be introduced. However future phases of the development would see extensions made to the equestrian and pedestrian trails.
“There is massive potential here for Portlick, but we need to take it slowly, and go phase by phase,” explained Mr O’Neill.
Mayor of Athlone, Frankie Keena welcomed the plans and paid tribute to former councillors, including Mark Cooney who have worked hard to see Portlick redeveloped.
Cllr O’Rourke also welcomed the plans saying that segregation of the trails are essential. “The pedestrian trail can become damaged, segregation is important for safety reasons... Portlick is a hidden gem.”
Cllr “Boxer” Moran said that Portlick was “no hidden gem. It has a lot going on but a lot to do. People swim off the ‘big rock’ - it’s amazing the amount of people who know about the area.
“We need to bring in Bird Watch and look at a place for disabled anglers. There’s a huge amount of business on the lake,” he added.
Mr O’Neill added that the council has looked at bird watching huts, outdoor classrooms, and fishing spots among other facilities.
The council will now move forward with the first phase of planned works for Portlick.