One of the upsides of the ‘we are where we are” scenario that has engulfed this country for the last few years is that it is forcing more and more people to look for opportunities in the sea of adversity in which we are all floundering. One of these opportunities has come to Galway in the past 48 hours with the news that a greenway trail for cyclists and pedestrians from Oughterard to Clifden has been approved by An Bord Pleanála.
The green light for the greenway is subject to a few conditions however, but none that seems insurmountable for a project that is set to revitalise the Connemara region and attract cyclists and pedestrians without forcing them to fear for their lives on the main roads of the region. I can safely say that if developed, this is one of the most important tourist developments that has happened in Galway for a long time. If this and the facility to host cruise liners alone were both implemented in the next decade, what a difference this would make to our tourism take. And it is not only tourists who would use the greenway. With cash tight for expensive activities, many families would avail of the opportunity to get their bikes out and cycle (or walk ) Connemara in safety and show the sheer beauty of it all off to a new generation.
The route on which this will travel is akin to the best that the Lake District of Cumbria has to offer, yet for a variety of reasons, it has never been exploited, and walkers have never been made feel truly welcome traipsing the lands.
The highly successful greenway that runs in Mayo is an example of how we should be exploiting the natural beauty in which we live without having to ruin it with heavy industry. The Westport to Achill trail is one of the most beautiful in Europe, but that title will be well challenged if the Galway greenway is given the same support and appreciation when it opens up in the future.
It was a sin in the 1960s that the railway lines that dotted the west were ripped up in the name of progress, but at least there is some benefit to be gained now that the Galway greenway route from Oughterard to Clifden will, in the main, follow the route of the old Galway to Clifden railway line.
Following an oral hearing late last year, An Bord Pleanála yesterday gave the project the go-ahead, subject to a number of conditions.
These include changes to the route originally proposed, so the greenway will be separated from the N59 road.
Concerns had been expressed about the proximity of an 11km stretch of the cycle path to the national secondary road.
Shane Foran of the Galway Cycling Campaign is on record as saying that the Galway greenway could be one of the most travelled in Europe as it will potentially form one end of a proposed cycle trail across Europe that would travel as far as Moscow, as part of the European Cycle Route Network.
Some landowners along the route have expressed opposition to the greenway going through their land, but in these recessionary times, they should look at it as a possibility and not something to be opposed. People on a 52km stretch will need to use the loo, have a coffee or an icecream, buy some souvenirs or crafts,— if I were a landowner on that route, I’d be getting the boards ready for my pop-up shop now. Wouldn’t that be a handy earner all year round in an area were such opportunities do not come along every day.
This is a great project that should be backed and developed. Well done, ABP.