THE Lough Derg region is to benefit from a €200,000 fund to market, develop and promote the Lough Derg Blueway, which includes the soon-to-be completed Lough Derg Canoe Trail.
The funding boost was announced by Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, Heather Humphreys and is to be spread across the Scariff and Nenagh rural economic development zones (REDZ).
Under the 2016 REDZ scheme, just over €5.3 million was approved for 41 projects, of which eight were local authority-led projects impacting on the wider waterway network.
They included Scariff/Nenagh on Lough Derg, from Bagnelstown on the Barrow to Banagher on the Shannon and Ballinamore on the Shannon-Erne Waterway.
Minister Humphreys said, “The REDZ scheme aims to improve links between rural towns and their hinterlands to stimulate activity at a local level. It is one of a number of schemes that my department has been rolling out to boost economic activity and improve living standards across rural Ireland.”
Managed by a steering committee comprising of Lough Derg Marketing Group, Clare County Council, Tipperary County Council and Waterways Ireland, the project aims to build on the existing tourism and recreational infrastructure, as well as improve economic activity surrounding the Blueway on Lough Derg by working with communities in the towns and villages in its hinterland.
Councillor Bill Chambers, cathaoirleach of Clare County Council, said, “There are approximately 70,000 visitors to the Lough Derg region on an annual basis, worth over €10 million to the local economy.
“The recent success of the Mayo Greenway and the Shannon Erne Blueway has highlighted the potential for new enterprises to emerge in rural towns and villages, as a result of such experiential tourism offerings. The completion of the Lough Derg Canoe Trail early next year will provide evidence of the economic benefits that can accrue from such a development for the towns and villages.”
Meanwhile, Leonard Cleary, director of services for rural development, said the REDZ initiative is about community participation, boosting employment, tackling rural isolation and helping communities to identify the issues and also the solutions.
Gerard Dollard, director of services for economic development, said, “The value of the Blueways lies not only in the recreational opportunities that they offer but also in their potential to stimulate local business and regenerate local areas. It is intended that the initiative will deliver one of the key objectives of the ‘Roadmap for Experience Development and Destination Marketing 2014-2017’ for Lough Derg.”
Meanwhile, the proposed Lough Derg Canoe Trail, which is scheduled for completion by January 2017, will see canoe facilities and services blocks installed in Killaloe, Ballycuggeran and Scariff, Mountshannon and Dromaan harbours.
Dawn Livingstone, chief executive, Waterways Ireland, stated “We look forward to working with the local authorities in Clare in the further development of assets, including the Blueways initiative, that will draw both local people and tourists to experience the unique and special communities along our navigations.”
Deputy Joe Carey has also welcomed the allocation. He said funding provided in Clare under the Town and Village Renewal Scheme, coupled with this latest announcement, will “ensure that all rural areas have strong economic and social centres, which support a higher quality of life for both town-dwellers and those who live in the rural hinterlands”.
Minister Heather Humphreys will be publishing the first ever Action Plan for Rural Development in the coming weeks. This will be a cross-Government approach to supporting rural communities and stimulating regional development.
By Carol Byrne