Forest trails in Galway much enjoyed by cyclists and walkers will receive over €225,000 for maintenance and improvements this year.
The funding was announced by Minister Heather Humphrey as part of €3 million for work on outdoor recreation facilities that Coillte provides across its recreational sites this year.
The improvements to walking trails and cycleways are meant to help boost tourism in rural areas.
Three Galway projects have been awarded a total of just under €70,000 for upgrade works.
At Aghrane Forest near Ballygar, some €37,000 will be spent upgrading 900m of walking trails starting from the town.
Another €20,000 has been awarded for installing new toilets at Portumna Forest Park, and €12,500 will be used to create a new trail at Kilcornan Woods near Clarinbridge.
On top of the upgrade works, some €155,400 in grants have been allocated for maintenance works on trails, signage and more in 24 woods around Galway.
The largest of these include €21,000 for ongoing works to mountain biking trails at Derroura, Maam Cross.
At Portumna Forest Park, €20,000 will be spent replacing bog bridge sections along the trails, as well as resurfacing and general maintenance works.
“Our forest parks, walking and cycling trails and upland areas are what makes rural Ireland stand out,” Heather Humphreys said.
“Right across the country, people of all ages reap the benefits of these unique natural amenities on a daily basis.”
“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.”
Nationwide, the €3 million is for works on roughly 3,000km of trails and cycleways in 260 recreational forests and 12 forest parks.
This is the first part of a five year partnership between Coillte and the Department of Rural and Community Development, which will total €15 million.
Over the past two years, as the pandemic has seen people embrace recreation in natural areas, Coillte has seen visitor numbers surge, doubling at the most popular sites.
Imelda Hurley, CEO of Coillte added that as the largest provider of outdoor recreation space in the country, they have an important role to play in the growing demand for 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.”
Partnering with local businesses will also help to boost “local and rural economic activity”, and improve employment in the area, she said.