Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has announced funding of €3 million to develop and upgrade over 300 forest parks, walking trails and outdoor amenities.
Some €2 million will be invested in improving and maintaining 280 recreational facilities on Coillte-owned lands right across the country.
And a further €1 million will be used to deliver 25 new outdoor projects such as walking trails, loops, boardwalks, ecotrails and carpark facilities.
The investment is part of a Strategic Partnership between the Department of Rural and Community Development and Coillte that is designed to boost rural tourism and local economies.
The 20 most popular Coillte were also revealed, with Rossmore Forest Park in County Monaghan ranked number one, followed by Ticknock in County Dublin and Donadea Forest Park in County Kildare.
Minister Humphreys announced the €3 million investment during a visit to Killykeen Forest Park in County Cavan, which recorded the seventh most visitors in 2022.
Announcing the funding, Minister Humphreys said, “Ireland’s outdoors, including our forest parks, walking and cycling trails, uplands and blueways are among the best in the world. The benefits that they provide in terms of our physical and mental wellbeing are huge. They are also such important assets in terms of attracting tourists to Rural Ireland and supporting our local economies.”
“I’m therefore delighted today to announce €3 million in funding to develop, support and enhance over 300 outdoor projects the length and breadth of the country.Some one million euro in funding will be used to deliver new outdoor recreation projects at some of our most beautiful forest parks and woodlands. And I’m also really pleased to announce that a further two million euro will be invested in maintaining and upgrading 280 different facilities nationwide – with every county set to benefit. This investment is further proof of how we are delivering for rural communities under our landmark rural development policy, ‘Our Rural Future’, as well as our National Outdoor Recreation Strategy, ‘Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors’.”
Daithi de Forge, Coillte’s Head of Recreation added, “as Ireland’s largest provider of outdoor recreation, Coillte is delighted to continue its partnership with the Department of Rural and Community Development, to build, upgrade and maintain our forest parks, recreation sites and thousands of kilometres of walking and cycling trails across the forest estate.”
“With the Department’s ongoing support, Coillte will continue to deliver the highest quality outdoor forest recreation experiences for our communities nationwide. We have an open forest policy and we’re proud to support local businesses such as café operators, bike hire providers and many others who partner with us and add the services that make a trip to Coillte’s forests so enjoyable for our visitors.”
Among the projects being supported under the €3million initiative include:
- Derroura, Co. Galway: Major upgrade of old outer loop of the mountain bike trail – €115,200
- Slieve Foye, Co. Louth: Significant upgrade of access road into car-park above Carlingford village- €115,200
- Laracus, Co Donegal: Connect two forest roads with two new sections of trail – €86,400
- Killykeen Forest Park, Co. Cavan: Resurface car park – €144,000
- Leamlara/Ballyhoura, Co. Cork: Construct new walking trails and a multi-use trail – €92,160
- Oaklands, Co. Wexford: Construct new trail on upper side to create new loop – €28,800
- Knockbarron, Co. Offaly: Develop new sections of Ecotrail in forest – €46,080
The funding is part of a 5 year strategic partnership between the Department of Rural and Community Development and Coillte which will see a €15m investment over the five year period 2022 to 2026.
Coillte recorded a significant increase in visitor numbers to its Forest Parks and recreation sites over the past number of years, with a doubling of visitor numbers at some of its most popular sites e.g. Rossmore, Co. Monaghan had visitor numbers increase from just over 80,000 in 2019 to almost 350,000 in 2022.
This funding announcement will assist Coillte in continuing to upgrade facilities to meet the increased demand for access to these amenities.