Our Rural Future: Minister Humphreys announces funding for 31 walking trails to boost outdoor recreation and rural tourism

  • 31 new trails added in 13 counties under Government’s ‘Walks Scheme’
  • Rural Recreation Officers to be appointed to enhance our outdoor amenities
  • Department to work with over 2,400 farmers and landowners to promote rural tourism

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has today announced a major initiative for Rural Ireland, which includes the addition of 31 new walking trails to her Department’s Walks Scheme and funding for a number of new Rural Recreation Officers.

The 31 new trails across 13 counties are to be added to the ‘Walk’s Scheme’, which aims to open up our countryside to local walkers, hikers and tourists.

Under the scheme, funding is provided to farmers and other landowners to maintain the trails that travel through their holdings.

Today’s announcement means there will now be 80 trails under the Scheme, which is operated by the Department of Rural and Community Development in conjunction with the Local Development Companies (LDCs) and over 2,400 farmers and landowners in total.

The trails added today involve over 400 farmers and include the Dingle Way in County Kerry, St Declan’s Way in County Waterford, the Ballyhoura Way in County Limerick, the South Leinster Way in County Kilkenny and the Slí Gaeltacht Mhuscraí in County Cork.

The Cavan Way in County Cavan, the Wicklow Uplands Way in County Wicklow, the Lung/Lough Gara Way in County Roscommon and the Durrow Leafy Loop in County Sligo are also among the trails being added to the Scheme.

Additional funding will also be provided to the Local Development Companies that deliver the scheme locally, as well as for the salaries paid to the Rural Recreation Officers who play a vital role in delivering the Walks Scheme and developing the outdoor recreation sector locally. Minister Humphreys also today announced the creation of up to 8 new Rural Recreation Officer posts in addition to the 13 already in place. These are designed to further enhance our outdoor amenities and the experience of visitors to Rural Ireland.The announcement delivers on commitments in both the Programme for Government and Our Rural Future to increase the number of trails under the ‘Walks Scheme’ in order to boost outdoor recreation and tourism in rural towns and villages.

Minister Humphreys also today published a review of the Walks Scheme, which sets out a number of recommendations aimed at enhancing the Walks Scheme and the role of Rural Recreation Officers, and will be implemented in consultation with key stakeholders.

The Minister made the announcements during a visit to officially open St Declan’s Way in Co. Waterford, a 115km trail involving 45 farmers and landowners which is amongst the trails being added to the scheme.

The Minister said:

“Our walkways, trails, greenways, blueways and cycleways are a defining feature of Rural Ireland.

“They have been a godsend throughout the Covid-19 Pandemic – providing so many of us with the opportunity to get out for some exercise and to meet up with family and friends.

“Over the past number of months, we have seen unprecedented investment in our outdoor amenities, underpinned by the most ambitious ever policy for Rural Ireland, ‘Our Rural Future’.

“Today’s announcement is further action behind that policy. By adding 31 new trails to the Walks Scheme, we are opening up our rural countryside further to walkers, hikers, adventurists, cyclists, as well as domestic and international tourists.

“And it means we are investing in some of the most picturesque locations in the country, so that they can be enjoyed and experienced by millions of people every year.”

The Minister added:

“In rolling out the Walks Scheme, my Department works closely with our Local Development Companies, community groups and rural farmers and landowners. We are indebted to our farmers and other landowners throughout the country that facilitate access to these wonderful trails and who now, through this scheme, are being funded to maintain the walks to the high standard we have all come to expect.

“Another important part of today’s announcement is the decision to appoint up to 8 new Rural Recreation Officers, as well as improving the salaries of the Rural Recreation Officers that are already carrying out great work across the country.  These individuals are crucial in implementing the Walks Scheme and working with all stakeholders to enhance our outdoor amenities.

“As Minister, I am committed to expanding the Walks Scheme so that more communities can reap the benefits.

“I am also committed to looking at further increasing the number of RROs nationwide based on the outcome of our new National Outdoor Recreation Strategy, which is currently being developed and which will make Rural Ireland an even better place to live, visit and raise a family.”

Minister Humphreys concluded:

“I am also today publishing a review of the Walks Scheme, which was carried out by Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (ORNI).

“The recommendations in the review are extensive, covering every aspect of scheme delivery and impacting across a range of stakeholders.

“Given the breadth of issues covered and that many impact beyond my Department, I intend to establish a stakeholder consultation group to explore the recommendations and how they could be implemented at a local level.

“Finally, I want to take this opportunity to thank all of the Local Development Companies, Trail management groups and especially the farmers and landowners for their excellent cooperation with my Department.”

The report on the review of the Walks Scheme can be on gov.ie here:

https://www.gov.ie/en/policy-information/942b4b-the-walks-scheme-and-rural-recreation-officers/#2021-review-of-the-walks-scheme

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