PUTTING in walking and cycling trails at the site of Clare windfarms was among the ideas mooted at a recent Active Travel briefing for the county, attended by Transport Minister Éamon Ryan.
The well-attended event, which was organised by Green Senator Róisín Garvey, highlighted cycling and walking projects in the county and looked at how funding and staffing resources might be captialised upon for Clare.
Acknowledging that the issue could be controversial, Senator Garvey noted that there are a number of windfarms already in Clare and several other developers looking for planning permission. “Even retrospectively, they could make good cycling and walking trails, it’s been put to me by a number of people,” she said. “Can recreational trails be incorporated into windfarm planning? It might be something to think about. I know they give some money to communities for things, but there’s a lot of land around wind farms, they do take up a lot of space and maybe it’s something we should look at. I know the new draft wind farm document hasn’t come out yet and maybe that’s something to look at – putting the onus on the windfarm developers to put in some trails, because they build roads to bring in trucks and then they close it all off, but we’d love to be out there on our bikes and walking maybe.”
Responding to Senator Garvey’s question, Minister Ryan noted the sensitivity around developing windfarms and said that adding additional trails might be tricky in some scenarios. “I think that if it’s not on a sensitive peatland or ecosystem, by all means,” he said. “There is an example that could be considered from Galway County Council. Part of the greenway there, the Connemara Greenway, would come in by Moycullen, right through Galway City, when it’s built, which better be soon, and then out through Salthill, out by Barna. One of the ideas I saw in discussion was to head back to Moycullen and that route goes through a very large windfarm. They have an idea to use it in that way, so perhaps look at the Moycullen greenway as an example.”
Currently, the Galway Wind Way is a series of recreational trails at a cluster of four windfarms close to the Cloosh Valley. To-date a total of six routes along 48km of recreational trail are available to the public. The trails have four gradings, ranging from ‘access for all’ – which are wheelchair and buggy accessible – to ‘strenuous’.