The Great Western Greenway will be officially opened by Minister Michael Ring T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport.
The first phase of the Great Western Greenway, an 18km route off-road cycling and walking route from Newport to Mulranny, was opened in April 2010. Following the huge success of this first phase, the initial 18km route was extended, from Mulranny to Achill and from Newport to Westport, resulting in a 42km route which will loop around scenic Clew Bay, mainly along the line of the old Midland Great Western Railway.
The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport and Fáilte Ireland co-funded the project, which has been developed by Mayo County Council. The project is the result of Mayo County Council and local landowners working together to develop the concept of the walking and cycling Greenway, and to ensure its delivery.
Speaking at the launch, Minister Ring said: “This route is perfect for sightseeing – offering gentle gradients and some of the most idyllic scenery in the west of Ireland. The route forms part of the National Cycle Network and it is the longest off road cycling experience in the country. Figures show that nearly 50,000 people used the Greenway between March and June this year – locals, day trippers, Irish and overseas tourists. All shared the experience of our beautiful landscape, on foot or on a bike, and the visitors provided an invaluable boost to the local economy here.”
Minister Ring continued: “But this route is not just about tourism. It has also facilitated people in the area in making local journeys by foot or by bike and has particularly helped local children achieve their Green Schools Travel ambitions. The route shows everyone that sustainable travel can be enjoyable travel”
“I would like to praise all those who have worked hard over the last number of years to bring this project to completion, from the local community, the local authorities, the state agencies and the Departments”, said Minister Ring.
The bulk of funding for the first phase was €1.28 million directly from the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, as investment in Sustainable Transport. In recognition of its tourism potential, Fáilte Ireland invested €160,000 in the development of the first phase. Significant funding was also been invested by Mayo County Council and the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht.
In 2010 the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport, and Failte Ireland each allocated €1.6m towards the development of the two extensions to Achill Sound and to Westport. The former provided funding as investment in sustainable travel, and the National Cycle Policy, and the latter under the Tourism Capital Investment Programme. These new sections will provide a further significant boost to local tourism, and indeed to sustainable travel and transport in the area.
Minister Ring concluded: “My Department and the tourism agencies will be doing everything we can to get the message out there, overseas and domestically, that there is never a better time to holiday here particularly in view of the value that is now available.”