The Connemara Greenway, which one TD said had the potential to be “a jewel in Ireland’s crown in terms of greenways”, took a step closer to completion this week, with an allocation of €500,000 for its Clifden and Oughterard section.
Additional government funding of €500,000 has been approved for the Clifden and Oughterard section of the Greenway, to allow for the old railway route to be upgraded for walkers, runners and cyclists.
Funding was approved by the Minister for Rural and Community Development, Michael Ring, under the 2018 Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme, and brings the total funding for the broader project to more than €2.3 million.
The allocation has been welcomed by Government chief whip, Aire don Ghaeilge, don Ghaeltacht agus do na hOileáin, and Fine Gael Galway West TD, Seán Kyne, who said it will, “ensure further progress on the Greenway”, which, when completed, “will benefit local communities and tourists”.
Figures from Fáilte Ireland show that close to 1.2 million visitors took part in hiking or cross-country walking in Ireland in 2014. These tourists spent in the region of €915 million in the Irish economy during their stays. Around 286,000 visitors took part in cycling activities during the same year, generating revenue of approximately €1.2 billion.
As a result, Fine Gael Galway West TD, Hildegarde Naughton, believes the Connemara Greenway will “tap into the growth of recreational tourism”, and could prove to be worth up to €18 million to the local economy in its first year, and create 450 jobs.
“We have seen elsewhere the huge potential for success with greenways as both an amenity for locals, and an extremely attractive tourism offering for visitors to our country,” she said. “The Connemara Greenway will be a jewel in Ireland’s crown in terms of its network of greenways, blueways and walking trails. The natural beauty of the region sets it apart from many other such amenities.”
She said one of the many “benefits of recreational tourism and greenway development” was the fact that it disperses visitors and tourism revenue to areas that might otherwise miss out on those benefits.