The first phase of Leitrim’s new Walks Scheme has been approved by the Department of Rural and Community Development, beginning payments for a number of landowners along The Leitrim Way.
This opening phase sees 24 landowners brought onto the scheme by Leitrim Development Company along Leitrim’s National Waymarked Trail. The scheme, funded by the Department and implemented by Local Development Companies, involves landholders as key participants in the provision of high-quality walking trails in Ireland. It achieves this by contracting them to undertake maintenance work on sections of National Way Marked Ways that traverse their property. Participants of the scheme receive yearly payments for their time in undertaking maintenance work on approved trail. The scheme currently covers 40 trails nationwide, with annual payments averaging €1100 made to approximately 1,900 landholders. For landowners not interested in joining, they have the option to nominate a third party onto the scheme in their place, such as relative or friend.
The addition of The Leitrim Way to the Walks Scheme comes as a result of the great work achieved by The Leitrim Way Management Committee. This collaborative is comprised of key stakeholders along the route, including Leitrim County Council, Coillte, Waterways Ireland, landowner representatives, and community volunteers from Ballinagleragh and Leitrim Village, who have been working over the past number of years to keep the route maintained and open to the public.
The Walks Scheme programme is managed by Bryan Fennell, Rural Recreation Officer for Leitrim Development Company. Bryan stated that “The Leitrim Way has a preliminary approval for up to 120 participants on the scheme along the entirety of the 56km route from Manorhamilton to Leitrim Village. Over the past few months, we have contacted all landowners along the route, where the trail crosses private property, to invite them onto the scheme. It’s worth noting that this is a great opportunity for The Leitrim Way Management Committee to take more sections off public roads and through rural landscapes/farmlands. Some landowners whose property the trail comes close to at the moment may wish to contact us to discuss rerouting the trail through their property, where appropriate. In this case, they too may have the option to join the scheme”. Work continues through the Rural Recreation Officer to engage with interest landowners along the entire route to bring them onto the scheme. The scheme is currently open for applications from interested landowners along the current Sport Ireland Accredited section of the trail from Dowra to Leitrim Village. Further improvement works are planned in 2021 to bring the remaining Manorhamilton to Dowra section of The Leitrim Way up to the standard required for Sport Ireland accreditation.
Shay O'Connor, Senior Engineer for Leitrim County Council, stated “This is great news to finally have payments being made to landowners as part of the Walks Scheme for The Leitrim Way Trail. It has taken a lot of work with the local communities groups, including the Ballinaglera Development Company and the Leitrim Village Development Company, to bring this trail back up to the required standard so that it is now a Sport Ireland approved trail. Leitrim County Council will continue to work with all parties involved to maintain the trail to the highest standard possible and to get the section from Dowra to Manorhamilton approved so that these landowners can also join the Walks Scheme.”
The Leitrim Way forms an important corner stone for tourism development in the county, as the trail can be combined with other trails to form nationwide long-distance walking routes, such as the Beara Breifne Way(700km), the Ireland Way (1010km) or the European Ramblers Association E2 Path (4850km, stretching from Galway to the Mediterranean).