Raheens Wood which is located just outside Castlebar on the scenic Castlebar to Achill road, could be in line for a major revamp which would attract tourists and recreational users to the area.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny has welcomed the decision by Minister of State for Food, Horticulture and Food Safety, Shane McEntee, to reopen the Neighbourwood 'Forestry Support' Scheme for the development of attractive woodland amenities, and has expressed his hope that Raheens Wood will qualify for the scheme.
The Neighbourwood Scheme, operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, is open to local authorities and others and facilitates the enhancement of existing woodland, the development of new woodland, and the installation of woodland facilities into new or exisiting woodland for public access and recreation. Another feature of the scheme is to enable woodlands to be developed to promote public health and wellbeing such as through the estabishment of fitness trails.
An application has now been submitted for the development of Raheens Wood, a gross area of 32.9ha, of which 23.5ha is classified as old woodland dating back to at least the 1840s, with enormous potential for development as a tourist and recreational location.
The proposed plan is to develop a linear trail connecting Lough Lannagh in Castlebar via Islandeady to Westport as part of a national cycle network. This would involve an extension of the already well established Greenway which would link Castlebar to Westport and pass directly through Raheens Wood.
The Taoiseach said: “I welcome the reopening of the Neighbourwood Scheme by Minister McEntee. This scheme can help to make a huge difference to locations with the development potential of Raheens Wood. Obviously nothing has been decided yet, but, if approved by the Minister, this development would really increase the accessibility of the woodland at Raheens as well as help to build further on the phenemonal success of the Greenway in the county.
“It is envisaged that this would be a multifunctional woodland, facilitating recreational users such as cyclists and walkers as well as schools and colleges in their work on woodland ecology. Mayo's natural beauty is unparalled and this development, if approved, would be ultimately about allowing more people to enjoy that, locals and tourists alike.”