Mayo County Council Tourism Development Officer Anna Connor outlined a multitude of tourism projects underway throughout the county during a presentation to the Westport-Belmullet Municipal District this week.
Under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme, measure 2 of which is currently open for applications, she said a number of projects had been applied for, including: Linking Carramore beach with the town of Louisburgh; improvement works at the carpark at Old Head; repair work at the Carrowteige trailhead walk; production of an augmented reality experience on the Slievemore Heritage Trail and a virtual reality experience for Croagh Patrick; and the Failte Ireland Belmullet Destination Town improvement scheme, which is open for applications to April 30, "for which we want businesses in the area to apply to, also for signage and interpretation. Work is also in hand on a review of the “Destination Mayo Tourism Strategy," she said.
The tourism officer also noted that this Saturday (April 30 ) is Mayo Day "and will be the launchpad for the Home to Mayo initiative - which is a call-out to the Mayo diaspora and local communities to celebrate the county throughout the month of May, during which there will be a network of festivals taking place."
She added that a disability awareness fund of €40,000 had been granted for use at the beaches of Dugort, Dooega, Carramore and Keel, outlining: “Under this, we are purchasing new beach wheelchairs for people with disabilities. Achill tourism put in place a booking system in their programme and lifeguards had the chairs available as needed; we are looking to buy four more wheelchairs for these beaches, beach mats and safety signage; also, to improve access at the existing pier at Carramore; also, beach mounts to assist people stepping on and off."
She added that RTE Nationwide "is filming a whole-of-Clew-Bay and Greenway and islands footage at the moment on what is to offer, which is due to go out as a dedicated 26-minute programme in June". She continued: "Also, the ferries are working with us and Failte Ireland on a summer schedule of services for both Cloughmore and Roonagh to help develop the Clew Bay Bike Trail, and we also hope to have signage in place for that this summer. Our office is also involved in the Greenway to Achill Island and back to Bertra route. We are also confident of 5km added on to the Greenway from Achill Sound and Bunacurry to Ted Lavelle's pub in Cashel being available this summer and a further 5k on the line, with substantial progress advanced at Achill Sound and Saula West; also the Murrisk and Bertra Greenway line is being progressed at the moment, while more boardwalk is being constructed over wet areas in the Bangor Trail."
Cllr Peter Flynn said that in a week when "nearly a million in grant aid was announced for piers and harbours in Mayo", it was all great news for the county. "This is the first positive grant announcement since the recent (Greenway funding ) controversy and I hope we are turning the corner and going in the right direction. The Clew Bay Trail has gone a little bit under the radar but the website is brilliant and the ferry companies came on board early, which has been a huge plus, and we hope to build on that. I welcome the Murrisk to Bertra section being back on and hope it is completed this year - then we will have the bigger challenge to complete - the Greenway route to Louisburgh and Roonagh."
Cllr Flynn added that he would love to see the beach disability access scheme also rolled out at Carramore and Old Head sections, saying: "It is great it has worked so well in Achill and it is a huge miss on our section of Clew Bay." He also noted that Cycle Friendly Clew Bay was being launched by Minister Hildegard Naughton this week, in which Westport will be recognised as Ireland's first bike-friendly town - "which is a huge achievement for the area", he said.
Cllr Christy Hyland thanked Anna Connor for the 'good tourism briefing' but said he had to come back to it all the time - the 'jewel in the crown of Mayo, Croagh Patrick'. He continued: "This is not just busy in July and August, but year round. It did get a bit of a cosmetic lift from the 'Climb with Charlie', but there are still no facilities in place there for coach parties. I want an update on this, and about the toilets, the cafe that the council bought and invested in, what’s the state of that? Murrisk Development Association who own the cafe in the carpark, the committee, the people who were running it for years, they have now finished up but no one else is coming on board to lease or rent it out. Coach drivers won’t go out to Croagh Patrick because they don’t want to go to pulling up on the main road to let people out on a busy public road."
He proposed that the MD invite MCC Chief Kevin Kelly "to be at our next meeting to talk about this and other issues, such as the dereliction of Westport Court House and the old school on Altamount Street." Are we in favour of more dereliction in Westport? This is what I'm getting asked on the streets, about the falling standards in our town; we need answers on this," he said.
Cllr Johnny O'Malley said it was great to see so many things happening in the county and "no doubt tourism will do well in Mayo and we will keep it to the fore."