More than 600 walkers and joggers turned out in Tuam in a virtual show of defiance to display their support for a greenway through the North Galway town.
The organisers of the recent walk said that they were overwhelmed with the huge numbers that turned out and it was an indication of the level of support that there was in Tuam for a greenway along the railway track to Athenry.
Indeed, there were many present on the walk who expressed surprise that there were so many politicians in Galway against the proposal for a greenway along the old Western Rail Corridor, which closed down forty years ago but is still in the ownership of Irish Rail.
The campaigners for the greenway in North Galway suffered a setback earlier this year when members of Galway County Council voted against the seeking of funding for a feasibility study for a walking and cycling route from Athenry to Tuam and possibly northwards towards Milltown.
Among the 600-plus walkers last Sunday were representatives from Athenry, Tuam and Milltown who are also supportive of the greenway and are hoping that another motion regarding a feasibility study on the route, which will be discussed at a Council meeting in September, will be successful.
One of the organisers of last weekend’s walk was Cllr Shaun Cunniffe said that he was overwhelmed by the response and particularly as many of those who took part were openly vocal about the need for a walking and cycling greenway.
“In all my years of organising events, this stands out as being one of the best supported. I just shows the demand there is out there for such a facility”, he said. Fellow councillors like Cllr Donagh Killilea, Cllr Karey McHugh and Cllr Pete Roche also took to the roads in support of the initiative.
But the support from the local business community was phenomenal. Local restaurants and shops provided food and refreshments for all of those who took part in the event and they too expressed a need for such a facility to boost trade for the town.
And those who are campaigning for the restoration of the Ballyglunin Railway Station, which is located on the rail track for the proposed greenway, have also came out in support of the plan as they feel that it would open up the station to a “new tourist interest”.
A recent survey on greenways revealed that those who are in favour of them want them on public owned property (thereby eliminating the need for compulsory purchase orders to become an issue), to be relatively flat so that they are conducive for families and that they go through largely populated areas like towns.
“The Tuam to Athenry greenway proposal fits all those criteria,” Cllr Cunniffe added and said that the business community in both towns along with sporting and leisure clubs are now fully behind the project. He said that the turnout last Sunday was testimony to this.
“When I turned up first at the railway station in Tuam there were around 150 people and I was delighted at that. But within the next half hour there were droves coming towards us. It was like a county final in Tuam Stadium.
“We have received knockbacks in our campaign but this gave us the inspiration to keep up the momentum. The support we received was mind blowing and those in attendance could not believe why it was not a runner.
“I had to explain to some that if Irish Rail wanted to reopen the railway track for trains in the future, then this could be done in tandem with the greenway as both could run side by side. Many people did not realise this,” Cllr Cunniffe added.