Mayo's greenway is 10 years old
THE Great Western Greenway is 10 years old.
The milestone was to be celebrated at an event at Nevin’s Newfield Inn in Tiernaur but was cancelled when Minister Michael Ring was recalled at short notice to Dublin on government business.
That official celebration will be reconvened at a later date, but, regardless, the greenway is already widely celebrated for its runaway success as one of the most important pieces of tourism infrastructure ever developed in Mayo.
And, 10 years on, it's still developing, with plans for a trail right around Clew Bay, from Achill to Roonagh Pier, outside Louisburgh, from where a short boat trip would bring greenway users to Clare Island and Inishturk.
Tourism officer with Mayo County Council, Anna Connor has spoken of how the greenway put west Mayo firmly on the map.
It was unique, she said, in that it firmly established Westport and Achill Island and created a wider destination, as in Clew Bay.
The greenway, of course, would never have come to fruition but for the cooperation of the 162 landowners along the route and she paid tribute to them for their support.
"Mayo people are unique, and they have a can-do attitude, and this is all down to the people who worked with us on the ground," she said.
The council continue to work with them, in terms of developing the greenway, of making it better, and extending it, and in time it is hoped to create a Clew Bay trail, which will wrap right around Clew Bay.
"Hopefully the next 10 years will bring that to us and build on the success we have," she said.
Under the greenway plan, the network will extend further into Achill Island, and westwards into Murrisk and Lecanvey, and eventually on to Louisburgh and Roonagh, and to take in the islands.
At the moment, a part 8 planning application to extend the route into Achill – as far as Ted Lavelle's - is on public display.
A section between Murrisk and Lecanvey is also being worked on currently.
Starting out a decade ago, the success the greenway has enjoyed was 'totally unimaginable at the time', Anna admits.
Sixty thousand users a year would have been viewed as doing 'very well'. Today that figure is more than quadruple that with upwards of 265,000 people enjoying the route each year.
This all happened pre the Wild Atlantic Way, and Fáilte Ireland rowed in behind the initiative with a promotional campaign on it.
The development of the Wild Atlantic Way has had a fantastic impact on the county, bringing people into the most northerly parts of the county.
And while it's a drive, it’s so more than just a drive, and people stop along the way and enjoy the county's walking trails and the greenway, and are staying longer in areas.
At 42 kilometres long, the Great Western Greenway is the longest off-road walking and cycling trail in Ireland. It follows the route of the Westport to Achill railway line, which closed in 1937.
It has had a hugely positive impact on local tourism and businesses, with everything from greenway cafes to bike hire and the Gourmet Greenway featuring local artisan food producers.