Michael Ring, TD, the Minister for Rural and Community Development, today announced that he has approved €2.2 million in funding for 32 projects under Measure 2 of the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme. These grants are to improve walking trails, greenways and other recreational amenities, with grants of up to €100,000 being awarded.
The Scheme is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development and provides funding for the development of new outdoor recreational infrastructure such as trails, cycleways and blueways, as well as the maintenance, enhancement and promotion of existing infrastructure.
Minister Ring said: “2017 was a record year for tourism, with overseas visitors up by 3.7% to the end of November. I am delighted to start 2018 by announcing €2.2 million to support the further development of Ireland’s outdoor recreational infrastructure in order to enhance what’s on offer for domestic and overseas visitors alike, as well as improving amenities for local people. This funding follows on from an allocation of €11.4 million which I made to 219 projects under Measures 1 and 3 of the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme last year.
“The Government has proven its commitment to supporting locally-based recreational projects, particularly in rural Ireland, to encourage more people to experience our natural environment. From mountain bike trails to stunning walking, cycling and hiking route; from blueways to heritage trails, there is something for everyone across the country to enjoy.
“Investing in infrastructure which enables people to access and enjoy Ireland’s wonderful natural environment and our rich heritage makes sense on many levels. It creates wonderful amenities for local people and it helps attract visitors which in turn brings economic benefits.
“I recently visited the new boardwalk over Acres Lake in Drumshanbo, Co. Leitrim which was funded by the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme. This project has linked the town up with the Shannon Blueway and helped bring tens of thousands of visitors to the area. It has provided a huge boost to the local economy and is an extremely popular resource for local walkers and cyclists. The Great Western Greenway in Mayo is another example of how Government investment has helped create a highly popular amenity which has created lots of local jobs and boosted the local economy.
“The funding I am announcing today represents an excellent investment by the Government. I encourage Local Authorities to ensure that the funding is spent without delay so that people can get the full benefit of these excellent amenities.
“The Outdoor Recreational Infrastructure Scheme is a competitive scheme and the level of demand for funding in 2017 far exceeded expectations. This demonstrates the pride which people in rural areas have in their natural environment and their desire to harness the recreational and economic potential of their local offering. I encourage people to take the opportunity in 2018 to experience what the country has to offer in terms of outdoor recreation.”
Notes to Editors
In 2017, the Department of Rural and Community Development invited applications under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme under 3 separate Measures as follows:
- Measure 1: Small maintenance/promotion of existing infrastructure (maximum grant €10,000)
- Measure 2: Medium scale repair/upgrade and development of new small/medium infrastructure (maximum grant €100,000)
- Measure 3: Repair/upgrade and development of larger more strategic projects (grant of greater than €100,000 and up to €1 million for exceptional projects).
The scheme is primarily run by Local Authorities and State Agencies, with funding provided up to a maximum of 80% of total project costs, with the balance provided from Local Authority or other sources.
The Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme operates on a competitive basis. A total of 219 projects under Measures 1 and 3 were approved for funding of €11.4 million in the second half of 2017. Demand under Measure 2 of the scheme far exceeded expectations, with 110 projects seeking combined funding of over €7 million. The Minister for Rural and Community Development has now approved funding of €2.2 million for 32 projects across the country under Measure 2 of the scheme, bringing total investment across the three schemes to €13.6 million. Full details of the projects approved for funding are available
Outdoor recreational and adventure tourism is a key growth sector worldwide and has been identified as a priority for Irish tourism in future years. The Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development specifically targets the development of activity-based tourism in rural areas as an opportunity for growth, by facilitating businesses to leverage the tourism assets in their area to support activities such as canoeing, cycling, angling and hill walking.
Figures available from Fáilte Ireland reveal that in 2014, close to 1.2 million visitors to Ireland took part in hiking or cross-country walking. These activity tourists spent in the region of €915 million in the Irish economy during their stay. Similar statistics reveal that 286,000 visitors took part in cycling activities with a related spend of some €268 million. These two sectors combined generated revenue for the Irish economy in the region of €1.2 billion in 2014.