Waterways Ireland and Fáilte Ireland begin to deliver on tourism transformation plan for Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands
Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage, Darragh O’Brien TD and Minister Malcolm Noonan TD, Minister of State for Heritage and Electoral Reform, visited the Shannon region today (29.11.21) to mark the successes of the first year of the Shannon Tourism Masterplan. As part of their trip, they visited one of the six projects implemented in the first year and met with representatives of Waterways Ireland, Fáilte Ireland, and the cathoirligh and chief executives of Westmeath, Longford, Roscommon and Leitrim county councils.
Aimed at positioning the Shannon as a hub destination for international and domestic tourism, the Shannon Tourism Masterplan is the first dedicated plan undertaken on the entire Shannon Region. A collaborative project led by Waterways Ireland, with Fáilte Ireland and ten local authorities along the River Shannon and the Shannon-Erne Waterway, it sets out an integrated framework for sustainable tourism development along the Shannon across 2020 – 2030. The Masterplan identifies the measures needed to develop the necessary infrastructure, products, and experiences to reposition the Shannon Region as a key tourism destination within Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.
An estimated €76.5million investment is required over the next 10 years to deliver on the Masterplan ambitions. This capital expenditure will deliver on the seven priority areas in the plan. These include interventions such as enhanced harbours and waterside public realms in Shannon towns; improved amenities for boat-users and infrastructure for activity-providers, clubs and communities to operate; a rejuvenated cruising experience along the Shannon; remote moorings and tranquillity zones along the Shannon, and new recreational infrastructure, including a substantial network of walking and cycling trails. It is intended that this will, in turn, support growth in the visitor economy by the creation of new enterprises and jobs through enhanced seasonality, increased vibrancy in local communities, and protection of the river’s special environmental qualities.
In year one of the plan, six projects have been delivered, with a further two in development. Delivered projects are as follows:
• Leitrim: Two projects have been completed – The refurbishment of Dromod Harbour and the development of new floating moorings in Rooskey.
• Roscommon: A canal walk has been developed, in Rooskey providing a waterside traffic-free, multi-activity loop to encourage visitors to spend longer in the town.
• Longford: A new floating mooring at Redbridge has been completed on the eastern shore of Lough Ree.
• Westmeath: Floating moorings have been added between the railway bridge and the town bridge in Athlone, with a new slipway installed south of the lock to facilitate increased access to the river.
These projects have been developed with €890,000 in Fáilte Ireland funding, along with funding of €219,000 from the Department of Rural and Community Development’s Town and Village Renewal Scheme.
Two further projects in County Galway are in development, to be completed in 2022. Connaught Harbour in Portumna is being redeveloped to increase mooring capacity and its recreational and amenity value, with €1.35million in Fáilte Ireland funding. Meanwhile, a Blueway linking Connaught Harbour to the Galway County Council-owned Town Recreational Park is also being developed. Running through ESB lands, this will create an off-road loop for multi-activity users.
Commenting, Minister O’Brien said: “The success of year one of the Shannon Tourism Masterplan is a great example of collaboration between Waterways Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and the 10 local authorities along the Shannon water system.
“I have noted the excellent progress already in the counties of Leitrim, Longford, Roscommon and Westmeath, with more yet to come. I fully support the aims of the Masterplan, which will deliver a series of projects impacting on the economy and jobs, whilst protecting and enhancing the valuable environmental, social, and cultural values of the Shannon. I look forward to working with my colleagues across Government to support its implementation.”
Minister Noonan said: “I commend Waterways Ireland, Fáilte Ireland and their local authority partners in Longford, Leitrim, Roscommon and Westmeath for their achievements in year one of the implementation of the Shannon Tourism Masterplan. By enhancing the environment and the economy of Ireland’s Hidden Heartland Region, they are creating a better place for our communities to thrive.”
Paul Kelly, Chief Executive of Fáilte Ireland, added: “The Shannon Tourism Masterplan provides a clear roadmap for future tourism investment within Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands that will transform the region to deliver a better spread of tourism and visitor activity within the midlands. Fáilte Ireland’s commitment to implementing this plan is underlined by an initial €2.1m capital investment and it is fantastic to see some of the transformative infrastructural changes and enhanced facilities included in the investment come to fruition, including the new and enhanced waterside amenities in Athlone, Red Bridge and Rooskey and the development of floating moorings at locations along the Shannon.”
Waterways Ireland has invested more than €40million on and along the Shannon, creating the foundation for new tourism and recreation opportunities for communities and business. These foundations include infrastructure such as marinas; moorings; service facilities for boat-users and tourists; and the development of on- and off-water activities and experiences, such as Blueways and Greenways.
Chief Executive of Waterways Ireland, John McDonagh said: “This plan provides a strategic direction and a growth pathway for the coming years for tourism along the Shannon and Shannon-Erne Waterway. The plan is an exemplar of a collaborative approach, and one Waterways Ireland will use to produce developmental plans for our other navigations. I am in no doubt that when it is fully implemented, the tourism experience on the Shannon will be transformed.”