Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has announced €15 million in funding as part of a new five year strategic partnership with Coillte designed to boost rural tourism with the development of outdoor recreational facilities on Coillte lands.
Some 260 recreational forests and 12 forest parks will receive investment as part of the initiative, approved by Minister Humphreys today.
This will result in improvements being carried out to some 3,000 kilometres of walking trails and cycleways in a major boost to outdoor tourism and rural communities.
Announcing the funding, Minister Humphreys said, “our forest parks, walking and cycling trails and upland areas are what makes Rural Ireland stand out. Right across the country, people of all ages reap the benefits of these unique natural amenities on a daily basis. This €15 million partnership between the Department of Rural and Community Development and Coillte will further enhance our great outdoors – benefitting hundreds of thousands of people for years to come. As Minister, investing in our great outdoors has been a major priority of mine. We all know the benefits that our forest parks and outdoor trails provide in terms of both our physical and mental wellbeing. And so, I’m really pleased to approve this new partnership today – which I have no doubt will be so important in terms of attracting more visitors to rural Ireland.”
“Coillte is Ireland’s largest forester and also Ireland’s largest provider of outdoor recreation space. The Coillte estate includes 260 recreational forests, 12 forest parks, 3,000km of way-marked walking trails and six purpose-built world-class mountain biking facilities. Over the last two years we have seen a major increase in the number of people accessing outdoor recreation infrastructure. Coillte is uniquely placed to assist us in meeting that demand to ensure that people can continue to enjoy the unique advantages offered by the Irish countryside.”
Coillte recorded a significant increase in visitor numbers to its Forest Parks and recreation sites over the past two years, with a doubling of visitor numbers at some of its most popular sites. This funding announcement will assist Coillte in upgrading facilities to meet the increased demand for access to these amenities.
In 2022 €3 million will be spent on projects throughout the country and include:
- Avondale, Co. Wicklow: Construct new multi-access trail and a family cycle trail at Avondale Forest Park – €100,000
- Donadea Forest Park, Co. Kildare: Final phase of works to entrance road and car park – €160,000
- Crough Wood, Co. Waterford: Reinforce unstable embankment and re-open trail – €80,000
- Deerkpark / Headford, Co. Cavan: Open new access point and install new car park to serve Deerpark forest – €200,000
The Minister continued, “these works will include development of trails, cycleways, play areas, upgrading of car parking and toilet facilities to help manage the growing number of visitors. Coillte estimates that it welcomes in the region of 18 million recreation visitors annually. This funding represents a significant investment by the Government in the development of these assets which will benefit rural communities and visitors alike. This is one of a wide range of initiatives we are undertaking to develop our outdoor amenities and which will be central to the new National Outdoor Recreation Strategy that I will be launching later this year.”
Imelda Hurley, Chief Executive Officer, Coillte added, “as the largest provider of outdoor recreation space in Ireland, Coillte has an important role in the provision of recreation forests, forest parks, waymarked walking and cycling trails, picnic sites and other facilities to support the growing demand for access to the outdoors. We are particularly keen to provide additional facilities at our recreation sites to support our visitor’s experience, such as food & beverage outlets, enhanced trails, waymarking and signage. By partnering with local businesses to provide services for visitors, we can increase local and rural economic activity and enable local employment. We are delighted to have ongoing support from Minister Heather Humphreys and the Department of Rural and Community Development. With their support, we can enhance and develop our recreational offering to cater for the significantly increased visitor numbers using Coillte’s forests each year.”