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Blazing a trail for canoeists on Lough Derg

PLANS have been unveiled for the development of a new canoe trail on Lough Derg by three LEADER companies.
Clare Local Development Compan (CLDC) joined up with North Tipperary LEADER Partnership and Galway Rural Development to outline draft plans, which met with widespread enthusiasm at public meetings in Scariff, Portumna, Ballina and Dromineer recently.
Canoe trails are a feature of tourism and recreation in Canada, Scotland and the Nordic countries and now Lough Derg has become a candidate for a similar development in the coming years.
The proposal includes the provision for the integration of mapping and visitor information, access points, accommodation, transport and equipment hire facilities that allow all standards of canoeist to navigate the waters and stay in the area. Visitors can choose from short or long trips, shore-to-shore or looped routes.
It is being put forward as part of the Lough Derg Marketing Strategy Group’s efforts to implement Fáilte Ireland’s Destination Action Plan for the Lough Derg Lakelands policy.
The groups have commissioned URS Ireland to prepare draft proposals that lay out a detailed plan for the infrastructure and facilities needed. These were outlined at this week’s public meeting and received widespread support from communities and tourism interests in attendance.
North Tipperary LEADER Partnership’s project officer Trisha Purcell outlined her hopes for securing funding for the canoe trail.
“This is a growing form of tourism and leisure activity that has brought many concrete benefits to lakeside communities in Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is low impact but with high local spending.
“Our challenge is to roll out realistic phases of the plan that can secure funding on a staged basis, commencing with key basic infrastructure,” she added.
One of most exciting aspects for existing tourism accommodation providers is the commitment to develop formal access points to the trail and to improve facilities to support lakeside overnight stays.
The proposed trail follows the shores of the lake and provides a stop-off point approximately every 10 kms. The trail is envisaged to follow both the western and eastern shores to allow paddlers to select the most appropriate route taking into account the prevailing wind. Users are likely to paddle in small groups of three to eight and, in many cases, be self-guided. In fair weather conditions, groups will be able to take the shortest point between locations but in winds, it is expected they will travel the route that provides the best shelter.
The selection of Lough Derg as a canoe trail is likely to be based on interest in remote places, the opportunity for an activity as a group, or the opportunity to study nature. Some businesses are expected to provide canoes for hire and to lead or guide groups on single-day and multi-day trips.
The distance along the eastern shore from Portumna to Killaloe is approximately 45km, while the distance from Killaloe to Portumna via the western shore and including a visit to Scariff is approximately 55km.
Proposed infrastructure would involve the provision of a pontoon within Killaloe canal and Scariff Harbour to facilitate a storage cage for canoes. It is also envisaged the existing sanitary services block in Mountshannon would be upgraded to provide toilets and showers for canoeists at an existing campsite.
The provision of a new service block with toilets and showers at the existing harbour at Dromaan, as well as a cage to allow for storage facilities for canoes is also being proposed.
Anyone interested in finding out more or in submitting their views is invited to get in touch with Trisha Purcell on 087 6978868 or tpurcell@ntlp.ie

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