The county saw one of this Summer’s rare sunny days last Friday as the Minister of State with responsibility for Sports and Tourism, Michael Ring, made a special visit to Ballinamore to officially open the town’s newly extended canal side walk/cycle way.
The project was completed a number of months ago and has already proven hugely popular with local residents and tourists alike but the official opening last Friday could not have been timed better with local walker and Olympian, Colin Griffin, in attendance. Colin was instrumental in developing the idea for the walkway and he told the crowd gathered at Lock 5 how proud he was to see the new amenity become a reality in his home town.
“I’m delighted to have been able to play a part in this project,” he said adding that he had been inspired by seeing similar projects in other towns. “It is great to have such a wonderful facility here in Ballinamore and hopefully it will be extended even further in future. It doesn’t cost anything to use this cycle/walk way and it will not only have huge health benefits for the community but it will also be a major tourism attraction as well.”
Cllr Gordon Hughes paid special tribute to Colin and the Griffin family for their work in encouraging projects such as the walk way and he said that the success of Colin and his fellow Olympian, Eslin’s Laura Reynolds, would hopefully inspire more people to look to becoming involved in sport.
With the new extension, the current walk/cycle way around Ballinamore covers around 6km. The new section starts at Kiltymooden crossing Lough 5 and making its way up to the Edentenny Stream before joining the Carrick Road. From here it joins an existing route, coming back to Ballinamore along the main road before turning at the McGirl Monument and joining the existing canal walk along the Golf Links road.
€120,000 in funding was provided by the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport for the project with work carried out by local contractor Frank Reynolds Plant Hire. The initiative marked a collaborative effort between Leitrim County Council and Waterways Ireland in what is hoped to be the first of three phases of development which, Cllr Hughes, said he hoped would eventually cover nearly 20km.
He paid a special tribute to the engineers, staff and management of Leitrim County Council, the contractor, Waterways Ireland - in particular Garret McGrath and the Griffin family.
Joe Gillespie from Waterways Ireland was also on hand to offer his congratulations on the successful project stating that it was remarkable how Ballinamore had successfully developed the canals as a tourism attraction. “This reinstated canal has been in operation for 19 seasons which is very impressive as the canal when originally built nearly 150 years ago, lasted only for nine seasons,” he observed. “Opening the banks of our canals for use is critical to the tourism sector,” he added saying he hoped that more canal walks could be opened in future.
“The canal here has had a somewhat chequered history over the last 150 years with its good and bad times, but today has certainly been a very good day for Ballinamore,” he said.
Newly elected Cathaoirleach, Cllr Enda Stenson said it was wonderful to see the development of a facility which was aimed at people of all ages and abilities. “Funding like this is essential to develop infrastructure for those who don’t get involved in team sports,” he pointed out.
Performing the official opening, Minister Michael Ring stressed the importance of encouraging co-operative projects such as this for the benefit of the community.
“This has huge potential for tourism but it also has a huge knock on effect for communities in the health benefit facilities like this bring and this, in turn has benefits in reducing the press on our health services as well,” he added.
“I want to see more walkways because I want to see more people out walking and seeing the natural beauty that we here in Ireland are blessed to have around us. I want Ireland to be known for having the best walkways in Europe. We already have the scenery, facilities like this are the next step,” he said before cutting the ribbon and declaring the new walkway extension officially open.