Westport is on track to become a world class model of an ‘ideal town’ after winning yet another major award this week of €5 million, having been selected as the number one Small Town in Ireland in the Smarter Travel sustainable transport awards.
At a celebratory function in Knockranny Hotel on Wednesday morning, Minister of State with the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Michael Ring, announced the good news investment to a large attendance of representatives from Mayo County Council, Westport Town Council, school representatives and students and members of voluntary bodies in the town whose combined efforts were said to have secured the win for Westport. The funding will go towards improving cycle ways, safe routes to school, key business and workplace zones; secure cycle parking in town centres; better walking facilities, including pedestrianisation; lower speed limits in residential and town centre areas; school and workplace travel planning; and e-working and car clubs.
Congratulating all involved, Minister Ring explained that the money, which was secured on the back of the Greenway development in Westport, will go towards the continuation of the Greenway expansion, including the link to Croagh Patrick and Castlebar. When completed the route will connect to all schools in Westport town making it possible for children to walk safely to school.
Minister Ring also revealed that further good news was in the pipeline for Mayo with the allocation of the Sports Capital Programme Grants due to be announced soon.
“We in Westport live in one of the most beautiful towns in the world and I am proud as Minister to be in my home town this morning to be able to announce this good news. In spite of the difficult times we are going through, we are getting our fair share of the national cake. We are going to make Westport one of the best smart travel towns in the world and this news today will keep our people employed. We have a great town with a great community spirit and we will get out of these difficult times by everyone continuing to work together.
“The Department of Transport ‘Smarter Travel’ initiative is about getting people out walking to work and being healthy. Credit for this win must go to everybody in the business community in Westport, in voluntary organisations, schools, the council and the great community spirit throughout the town.
“Cllr Myles Staunton as the former Cathaoirleach led the campaign and called on everyone to get involved in the Greenway project and they did. This win will only add to its continuing success.”
Westport Town Council Cathaoirleach, Cllr Christy Hyland, said the announcement marked yet another positive day for Westport. Great tribute was due to the 2009 town council, under the stewardship of the then cathaoirleach Cllr Myles Staunton, for having the vision to invite Irish champion cyclist Sean Kelly to the initial launch of the Greenway project, which helped attract national and international attention from the outset. A council study trip to the Lake District back then could have been considered by some as a junket but today it was clear it had fully delivered.
“The Greenway is all about fun and safety while walking, running or cycling the route. The skateboard park along the way has even made it possible now for kids to skateboard to school.
“A few weeks ago we had the Allergan 200 jobs story and the Carraig Donn expansion and now this, which shows that Westport town is all about business and tourism. The hotel sector employs 750 people in this town and this Greenway project will help us maintain these jobs by creating footfall and bringing people into the town. We are bucking the trend and are the envy of other towns in Ireland. That is a tribute to all in Westport working together for the betterment of the town, which will be reflected in this year’s St Patrick’s Day parade theme of ‘Teamwork’. This is a very proud day for Westport and already we know we will have a very good tourism season in the town this year,” said the Cathaoirleach.
Mayo County Council manager and former Westport Town Council manager and architect Peter Hynes said it was great to be back in Westport for such a celebration. “Smarter Travel was a national competition objectively assessed by a judging panel and this win marks 20 years of work by all in Westport to make the town what it is today.
“The idea of the ‘ideal town’ is something that exercises the minds of architects a lot – a utopia where things are as perfect as they can be. If you were to look at a possible such location, where there is a perfect balance between work, play, community spirit, quality of life, and investment, Westport would be high up on that list and today makes it possible for us to make Westport the ideal town for the 21st century.”
Special recognition was given to Padraig Philbin and Anna O’Connor of Mayo County Council for their negotiations with landowners who kindly gave free access along the route and without whom, it was stated, the Greenway project would not have happened, with special mentions also for Joe Beirne, director of services and county engineer, Westport Chamber of Commerce, Westport Gardaí, Iompar Mhaigh Eo, An Taisce, the HSE, Mayo Education Centre, and Minister of State Michael Ring.
Limerick city and Dungarvan also won category awards in the Ireland’s Smarter Travel competition and combined with Westport, the three areas will enjoy a total investment €23 million over the next five years (€9 million in Limerick, €7.2m for Dungarvan ).