Gerard D'Arcy, Greenway project co-ordinator and Noel Smith, Belturbet Community Development Association at the meeting last week. Photo: Sean McMahon

Multimillion tourism project mooted for west cavan

The local authorities in Cavan and Leitrim are undertaking a feasibility study on the development of a Cavan-Leitrim Greenway on a 26-mile route from Belturbet to Mohill along the old railway lines. The project, which is being driven by six local development committees, is being proposed on a similar basis to the Great Western Greenway in Co Mayo, which is estimated to have generated millions for the local economy since it was opened in July 2011.

Landowners along the route and interested individuals were updated as to the progress of the proposal at an information evening in Belturbet in the Townhall Civic Centre last Thursday evening
The co-ordinator of the proposed project, Gerard D’Arcy, was joined at the top table by Noel Smith from the Belturbet Community Development Association. The project is a joint proposal from six local development committees (Belturbet, Ballyconnell, Templeport, Ballinamore, Fenagh and Mohill).
In addition to being a quality cycle route, the greenway is being proposed as a recreational tourism project, which meets the highest standards in safety, while giving access to the best the area has to offer.
The audience listened attentively as Mr D’Arcy outlined how the Great Western Greenway became a reality in County Mayo and the impact it has had there. “Two independent economic studies have been done on the Great Western Greenway since it opened. They have both confirmed that it is bringing between €1.5-€5.5m into the local economy. If anyone takes time out the visit that area and speak to people who are in the tourism industry, they will confirm the impact it has had on that particular area,” he told those at the meeting.
“We would hope the feasibility study would underpin an application to the funding authorities such as INTERREG, LEADER, Fáilte Ireland, Smarter Travel and the Lotto,” he added.
“We would hope that it would end up being a win/win situation for the local landowners and the local community generally,” said Mr D’Arcy.
“Tourism has a lot to offer nationally – it is very big business in Ireland at present and we would like to see more of it coming into the West Cavan and South Leitrim area.”

Landowner concerns
A number of people speaking from the floor had a positive reaction to the proposal, while some others had major reservations about allowing a cycleway through their lands and cited concerns such as litter.
Some speakers felt that it would afford an opportunity to increase tourism footfall into the town and instanced the fact that there would be business opportunities to rent out bicycles, as well as greater use of bed nights in the area.
In relation to concerns from some farmers about the cycleway not being acceptable to them, Mr D’Arcy clarified:
“The project will involve consultation with all landowners before the design is confirmed.
“It is intended that every landowner along the route will be consulted. There are approximately 154 landowners over the course of the 26-mile route. All the committees along the route have emphasised from the outset that this is a community-led project, which means that landowners will be consulted,” he said.

He said that the opening up of greenways in other parts of the country had afforded opportunities for cottage industries and accommodation on farms. In the peak summer season it is estimated that 600 cyclists a day use the Great Western Greenway.
“According to Fáilte Ireland over 70 per cent of the visitors that come to Ireland every year choose their destination from the internet. What we would hope to do is be up there on the internet with family holidays, cycling holidays and be among the best available in Britain or Ireland, if this Greenway is opened,” said Mr D’Arcy.
Brendan Jennings, Acting Senior Engineer with the council added: “The project is in its infancy, while there is a lot of support from both communities in Cavan and Leitrim, the first step is to undertake a feasibility study, which we are currently in the process of starting.”