The well attended meeting in the Westcourt Hotel last night.
It was billed as an update event but there were more questions than answers at a public meeting held last night in the Westcourt Hotel to discuss the proposed 17 km Boyne Trail cycleway from Mornington to the Bru na Boinne Interpretative Centre.
The Boyneside Trail is an ambitious and extremely worthwhile project which caught the public imagination from the moment it was first mooted in 2011.
It has not been without its problems however and, perhaps because the propose route passes through two counties, Meath and Louth, progress has been lamentably slow.
This has led to much frustration both for the organisers and for some residents, especially in the Crook Road area of Mornington, who have concerns about the route the Trail will take.
Geoff Fitzpatrick, one of the people spearheading the development, did a very good job of describing the many benefits that the Trail, which he said would cost €2.7m to complete, would bring to the area but did not underestimate the challenges that such a development throws up.
He said that if these challenges could be overcome the project would deliver a sustainable tourism project for visitors and provide safe access for local walkers and cyclists making it easier for them to get out and enjoy the countryside.
He said that the experience around the country was that greenways give great value for money and were a great boost for small and medium sized businesses in the area.
He gave as an example the Deise Greenway which follows the course of a disused railway route between Waterford and Dungarvan which opened in March this year and has already been a big hit with overnight stays in the area increasing hugely and six new bike rental companies renting over 500 bikes a day.
“It doesn’t have 5,000 years of history to pass through though” Geoff said adding that in his opinion the Boyne Trail will have much more to offer.
He also revealed that the section of the Boyne Trail that is already open at Oldbridge has already been used by 200,000 people.
He described the task ahead as one of “economic electrification” which would create jobs in small local businesses.
“It’s up to us to us as a community to give Failte Ireland a brand that they can sell. This has the potential to bring in an extra 100,000 visitors to the area” he said.
But none of this is particularly new and many of the people in the audience had come to find out what the exact route was going to be and this was something that neither Geoff nor his colleague Peter Monahan could tell them.
They explained that the exact route was a matter for the consultants appointed by Meath County Council and their proposals would be up for public consultation prior to the planning phase.
The only real news to emerge at the meeting, which included several councillors from Meath and Louth plus Deputies Imelda Munster and Declan Breathnach, came from Councillor Sharon Tolan who said that the consultants’ proposal is expected be ready by the end of October.
In a further development today Independent Councillor Kevin Callan has said he has had communication from Tourism Minister Shane Ross that funding for cycleways and greenways is to be more than doubled by his department over the next four years with a specific new strategy for greenways being implemented in the New Year.
In a statement Minister Ross said: “My Department is working on a strategy for the future development of Greenways and I expect to be able to announce the outcome of that strategy in the New Year. This strategy will be backed by an unprecedented level of funding. Over the next four years I propose to more than double investment in Greenways to €55 million.
Cllr Callan said he is concerned about the lack of progress on the (Boyne Trail) project despite efforts within both Meath and Louth County Councils and volunteers.
“We are making massive leaps and bounds in terms of tourism and we are also developing our heritage sites like Laurence Gate and St Marys Abbey and the Magdalene Tower in Drogheda but this project must advance and happen.
“I will be meeting the Minister in the next few days following this news and also the Minister for the OPW Kevin Moran to make sure everything that needs to be in place by both Councils to access funding is in place, we cannot miss the boat again on this vital piece of infrastructure”.