Local Fine Gael councillor, John Dolan, told Monday’s meeting of the Athlone Municipal District that it is now time to look into expanding Athlone Marina.
Cllr Dolan said the next phase of the Greenway from the White Gates to the marina makes the latter’s upgrade logical in terms of producing “the complete tourist package” for the town. He added that the most pressing concern is the lack of space currently on offer at the marina.
Sinn Féin’s Paul Hogan supported Cllr Dolan’s motion. He said the marina had originally been intended for short-stay users, but that many boats are now moored there long term, reducing the amount of space available.
Cllr Hogan added that it formed only part of a much larger discussion about the future of the amenity. Going forward, he said the council needs to come up with “a vision for the marina”, including deciding if long- or short-stay boats are more preferable, or a mixture of both. He added that it was important to open negotiations with land owners in the area to allow for expansion.
Fianna Fáil councillor, Aengus O’Rouke, praised the marina as “an aspect that sets Athlone apart from other towns”. He noted how attractive it appears on a warm summer’s day when all the boats are out “in all of their colour”. He said such an attraction acts to encourage visitors to stay and explore the town.
Director of services, Barry Kehoe, said there was a noticeable upturn in the number of boats using the marina during the last 12 months. He added that Waterways Ireland believe these numbers will increase further this year.
Mr Kehoe acknowledged that the marina is now short on space. With too many long-stay boats now in situ, he said it will be necessary to redress the balance to favour the visitor.
He said the obvious direction to extend the marina is towards the railway bridge, and that Fáilte Ireland can be approached for a grant to complete any works, as it would be a tourism project.
Mr Kehoe added that a report will be prepared on the marina to be presented to councillors in the near future.