THE Rural Walks Scheme which allows landowners develop and maintain many of the country walking trails, will not be open to new participants until late 2018 or early 2019.
Fianna Fáil TD for Cork North West, Aindrias Moynihan, has said that he and many local groups in North and West Cork are severely disappointed with what he called this ‘chronic delay.’
The scheme involves landholders as key participants in the provision of high quality walking trails, by contracting them to undertake maintenance work on sections of National Way Marked Ways and other priority walks that traverse their lands. They receive modest payments for maintenance work undertaken, in line with agreed work plans.
The scheme currently covers 39 trails, with payments made to approximately 1,900 landholders to maintain those trails.
However, Deputy Moynihan said many more landowners in the area are keen to get involved.
‘We have groups of landowners in Cork who are very interested in taking part in the scheme, but nothing will now happen for at least 11 or 12 months.The Súilleabháin Beara Walk, which extends from West Cork to Leitrim, is a great example of what can be achieved.
‘Yet, sections of this walkway are being looked after by locals at their own expense without any fovernment support. This is a very unfair on them, and I do feel the Minister and his Department need to move more quickly to support them and other similar groups.
‘Equally, there are many potential new walkways all throughout Mid and West Cork that are now stranded in limbo awaiting the Department to get its act together.There is a plethora of disused railway tracks around the county that are ideal potential walkways. Many landowners and community groups have been in touch with me to express an interest in working together to develop them.’
Minister for Rural Development Michael Ring said there is a commitment to increase the number of trails covered by the Walks Scheme.
‘I intend to initiate a comprehensive review of the scheme’s operation this year in order to determine how best to expand the scheme and maximise the impact of the resources available to me. This review will inform any decisions to be made regarding new walks to be included.’