A campaign group which is pushing for the completion of Galway greenway have so far attracted over 2,000 signatures to a public petition.
The Galway Greenway Group is made up of business owners, hoteliers, landowners, families and individuals in favour of the cycling and pedestrian pathway from Galway City to Clifden.
The project has been dogged by objections in the last few years. The group believe the discussion up to now has been overwhelmingly negative, explained founder and Galway City resident Tiarnan McCusker.
“We are trying to change the narrative and focus on the positives of an off-road cycle/walk way which will be fair to landowners and facilitate hundreds of thousands of domestic and overseas users taking to the greenway every year,” he stated.
“The Mayo Greenway had 275,000 users in 2015. Local businesses will benefit in the form of hotels, pubs, cafes, B&Bs, new bike shops and shops in Galway, Moycullen, Rosscahill, Oughterard, Mamm, Recess, and Clifden.”
A petition launched in January has so far received over 2,100 signatures.
’All of the comments left have been hugely positive. One person said they would travel from Australia to use it. Others from Connemara mentioned how much they would love to see this for the benefit of their communities and to prevent further rural emigration.’’
The project was meant to be shovel ready in 2013. He sees the lack of consultation as the key reason why landowners have been so opposed to the project.
“The reason the Great Western Greenway in Mayo has worked so well is that it was led and agreed by the whole community. This has to happen in Galway.” The group cites Newport as an excellent example of the power to revitalise a town through a greenway.
“Before the greenway, it was in economic decline, with many closed shops and boarded up windows. With the increased footfall, the village was transformed with new businesses starting up, including bike shops, cafes and restaurants. One hotelier in Mulranny said that the greenway extended the tourist season by six weeks. This could be the boost that the Galway towns and villages along the route need,” he insisted.
Last month a meeting was held between the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross and a delegation representing landowners on the Athlone to Galway stretch of the walking and cycling route.
After attending the meeting, Adrian Kelly of the Irish Cattle and Sheep Association (ICSA) said the Minister agreed that the only way forward is to have a proper consultation process.
Work on parts of the Athlone to Galway section of the greenway stalled last year after farmers objected to the route going through their lands, which they claimed made their holdings unviable and created security concerns. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport is currently assessing submissions received in a public consultation which closed late January.