Senator Aisling Dolan welcomed the announcement of a final route corridor from the Galway to Athlone Cycleway project team. The Red Route five through Athlone, Portumna, Gort, Kinvara to Galway has been selected with a link to Ballinasloe town.
The fact that Ballinasloe town is included is a significant boost according to Senator Dolan. “There is such excitement to know that Ballinasloe will be the first stop in the west," she says.
"Ballinasloe or Béal Atha na Slua is the mouth of the crowds, the crossing point of the River Suck and Gateway to the west. We are at a criss-cross of motorways, waterways, railways, walkways and now the cycleway. Multi-million euro investment into Ballinasloe will revitalise our region and make us a base in the west to join the cycleway.
“I campaigned with local groups to promote Green Route No.1 through Ballinasloe, Ahascragh, Mountbellew and Athenry and Blue Route No.3 through Ballinasloe, Aughrim, Kilconnell and Woodlawn. With over 1,600 submissions on Route 1 and 800 plus on Route 3 - there is such a hunger and a grá for cycleways especially on these routes in the hidden heartlands. We need further investment to open up accessible safe places to walk and cycle as well as opportunity and rural development for our towns and villages.
“I think of all the families living in Galway and in the town of Ballinasloe who will now have a place to bring their children to run, walk or cycle on a cycleway. It will be a place for all abilities and ages to enjoy healthy outdoor activities.
"I’m proud to see the town of Ballinasloe recognised as a major location on the Galway to Athlone Cycleway. It is the result of a powerful team effort by all groups in the area."
Senator Dolan is hopeful that more towns can be connected in east Galway. “This investment in the NTA cycleway is a stepping stone to connect in all our towns in east Galway," she adds.
"I have spoken with Minister Hildegarde Naughton on regional funding through active travel funds to further develop cycleways and greenways connecting towns like Ahascragh, Caltra, Mountbellew on the green route as well as blue route to link in with the Battle of Aughrim site, Kilconnell and Woodlawn.
"In Ballyforan, Just Transition funding will develop a looped walkway and cycleway and is another stepping stone to further connections. The cycleway project team have completed groundwork in these areas identifying potential routes and we can build on this work.”
A virtual consultaion is available on www.galwaytoathlonecycleway.com until Monday January 31, 2022.
Senator Dolan concluded: “Route five will go from Athlone, through Cornafulla, close to Shannonbridge with a link to Ballinasloe and onwards then to Clonfert, Eyrecourt, Portumna, Woodford, Gort, Kinvara, Clarinbridge, Oranmore, and Galway through stunning boglands, scenic landscapes and vistas from River Shannon, Grand Canal to the Atlantic sea bringing heritage, history, culture and communities together."
Welcome from communities along the route
The news has been very well received by many of the communities along the route.
“This is very good news for some of the rural communities along East and South Galway”, said David Murray, from the Red Route 5 Cycleway Group. “We see clear evidence that cycleways offer many benefits and this route will offer much needed revitalization to struggling rural communities. It’s also brilliant news for cyclists and walkers as we think that Route 5 offers the most in terms of its diversity, impressiveness of its scenery and for the amount of things to see and do along the trail.”
“This route corridor selection will mean that people will be able to experience the beautiful scenery in South and East Galway, learn more about its history, heritage and most importantly, get to know its people! “, said Katleen Bell-Bonjean, from the Red Route 5 Cycleway Group and active South Galway cycling advocate. “This will make a vastly unexplored area accessible to cyclists and walkers, both on and off the Greenway, and help boost economy to those areas.”
“The greenway will have a huge positive effect on the economy and well-being of the towns and villages along and close to the route, " said Karen O'Neill, Vice Chair Burren Lowlands CLG
“As a community group we are delighted with the announcement that the "Red Route" is the preferred route for the national greenway from Athlone to Galway city and is very much aligned with our goals which are centered on the social and economic development of the communities of South Galway and North Clare.
The Red Route 5 Cycleway was supported by an active Facebook page of over 2,400 members as well as a fully fledged website https://redroute5.wordpress.com/ where members shared their favourite images, knowledge and stories along the potential route corridor.
“The Red Route 5 campaign has shown just how passionate communities can rally around a common aim, and make their voices heard”, said Ms O’ Neill.
"I welcome greatly the selection of the Red Route 5 as the preferred route corridor for the Athlone to Galway Cycleway. “ said Cllr Martina Kinane, Chairperson of ‘Bridge That Gap’
“This is a huge opportunity for many small villages and towns in South Galway to tap into an emerging cycling tourism market, not to mention the many positive benefits for local families in terms of safe cycling infrastructure. The local tourism sector is essential to Oranmore, Clarinbridge, Kilcolgan and Kinvara and the Galway - Athlone Cycleway will be a vital enabler to attracting more tourists to these villages”
“I think what has really helped here is the wider support we got from the communities along the route”, said Bell-Bonjean, “We have had strong participation from community groups, businesses, schools and the wider communities across social media. We also have to acknowledge the progressive landowner response that we have received and also the strong support from our local Councillors.”
While it’s hard to curb their enthusiasm, the group has set a cautiously optimistic tone going forward.
“It’s great that Red Route 5 has been selected as the emerging preferred route corridor, but this is really only the start, there are many challenges to be overcome before this route becomes a reality for our communities”, said Murray. “Landowner engagement will be the heart of any success here and we now need to approach this sensitively and methodologically. I think many of the landowners understand the broader community benefits that this kind of amenity will bring, but we have to ensure that any concerns raised will be addressed.“
The emerging preferred corridor is a wide route (several kilometers in places ) and the project will now go into the next public consultation phase to work out the finer details of the route.
Dep Ciaran Cannon and Cllr Shelley Herterich Quinn have both said yesterday that they will be applying for support to ensure that Athenry and Loughrea are joined to the route.