Following the transfer of the two North Kerry railways from CIE last year, Kerry County Council has this week begun the consultation process with interested parties along the proposed North Kerry Greenway.
Letters were delivered to residents and landowners adjoining the route which will run from the current Great Southern Trail head at the county bounds to Tralee where it will join with the Tralee to Fenit Greenway.
This is a long awaited development in a project which was originally initiated 30 years ago this year. In 1988 Sustrans was commissioned by Shannon Development to carry out a comprehensive feasibility study on the development of the Great Southern Trail.
The report outlined Ireland’s first planned greenway, over the intervening three decades the entirety of the Limerick section of the route has been converted. While Kerry has fallen behind there has been action on both ends over the last number of years with the opening of the urban section in Tralee and the ongoing clearance of the 10.5km section between Listowel and the Kerry border. A survey of this section is currently being carried out, and it’s expected the design of the greenway will be completed by the end of August then preparation of the necessary planning documentation can begin.
Last year Limerick Council took over the running of the Limerick section of the route from the volunteer led GST Ltd. and plans to invest significantly in the amenity allocating €1.2 million in their 2018 budget to the project. They are currently in the process of re-branding the route as The Southern Greenway, along with the installation of new signage there are also plans to rejoin the Barnagh tunnel to the route which was previous cut off due to road realignment as well as resurfacing the trail. Longer term plans include extending the route right into the heart of Limerick City.
In Kerry the route would not only provide a much needed boost to tourism in the area but would also serve to provide a safe off road link connecting the North Kerry towns of Tralee, Ardfert, Abbeydorney, Lixnaw and Listowel, as well as linking isolated rural communities.
The Great Southern Greenway which if fully developed would be almost 100km in length making it Ireland’s longest greenway. The route will also form part of Trans-European EuroVelo 1 and in time will link up with other greenways such as the Waterford and Mayo greenways in order to provide a dedicated cycle route from Wexford to Belfast along the Atlantic coast, much of the route would be in parallel with the Wild Atlantic Way.
Kerry TD John Brassil raised a parliamentary question recently regarding funding for the stalled Tralee to Fenit Greenway:
To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport if he will allocate funding to Kerry County Council to allow it to proceed with the Tralee to Fenit greenway now that all land ownership issues have been resolved; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
As part of his reply Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Shane Ross stated that:
…it is not intended to issue a further funding call in the immediate future.
I expect to be announcing a new competitive round of funding later this year.
We are not too sure if things change that much in a week but it seems that a new funding round for Greenways may come on stream later this year, this can only be good news for the Tralee to Fenit Greenway and similar projects around the country.
Update 21st April
John Brassil has indicated that he has sought clarification from Minister Ross.
Minister Ross has responded to the additional PQ raised by John Brassil in order to clarify the funding timeline.
Unfortunately it seems that additional Greenway funding may not be available in the near term. This has implications not only for the Tralee-Fenit Greenway project but also for the South Kerry Greenway and the Kerry section of the Great Southern Trail.
That said it is good to hear that the department is committed to funding these project over the remaining years of the current capital plan.
There will be no new funding calls for greenways until the review of the Capital Plan is complete and there is clarity on the funding that will be available for greenways for the remaining years of the capital plan.
One of the main complaints of the first phase of the Tralee to Fenit Greenway was the lack of route permeation and linkage with estates it passes, with only one intermediate access point along the whole route, this issue was observed by numerous individuals and groups as part of the planning process.
A prime example of this was at Gort Na Greine where the existing access point was blocked up with industrial palisade fencing despite the fact that at the time of the development this was a well trodden route.
Within a short period of the fencing being installed a few sections were removed and people were able to ‘unofficially’ use the link again , it was a common sight to see people lifting bikes and even children in pushchairs through the gap in the fence.
The ultimate irony here was the fact that the Gort Na Greine road had an existing cyclepath, the white line can be seen runnign down the center of the footpath in the picture above.
It was great to hear that this very issue was raised by Cllr. Pa Daly at the November Tralee Municipal District meeting, and that the fencing will be removed and access restored.
11. Cllr. P. Daly:
That this Council will construct an official gateway on to the Fenit Walkway from Gort Na Greine.
The existing palisade fence and gate will be removed and a new pedestrian access will be provided to facilitate connectivity between the local
estates and the Walkway
Cllr. P. Daly said that he welcomed this reply
Update April 2016
Kerry County Council have finally removed the fencing to allow ‘official’ access onto the greenway from Gort Na Greine and adjoining estates, this is great for linkages along the greenway.
It is surprising that the full fencing was not removed only the part bounding the roadway meaning that pedestrians have to depart the footpath and travel along the roadway, a situation not ideal especially for the elderly, people with pushchairs, and wheelchair users.
We received this mail today from Liam O’Mahony, Liam and the Great Southern Trail group have done trojan work in their efforts to reopen the disused Tralee – Limerick and Tralee – Fenit Railways as a greenway. While the GST have had great success on the Limerick side of the border things could not be more different in Kerry with the entire route save a mile or so in Tralee still lying idle.
On Saturday 7th November to celebrate 25 years of achievement the GST will be holding an ‘Open House’ and a DVD launch followed by a walk from Newcastle West to Ardagh which will be led by the Mayor of Limerick Cllr. Liam Galvin, the same route that the very first organized walk along the old railway took place in May 1990.
Full detail of these events can be found on the GST website.
A personal observation by Liam O’Mahony:
The Taoiseach’s commitment to a national cycle network, made on October 18th 2015 when opening the Mullingar-Athlone Greenway along an old railway, (which can be listened to here) rings hollow in North Kerry where the conversion of the old Rathkeale to Tralee/Fenit railway into a Greenway was first proposed in 1988.
That vision had to wait for most of twenty years to be even partially realised due to some trenchant and very influential opposition. Eventually the West Limerick section was opened and only then through the persistent endeavours of the voluntary Great Southern Trail (GST) organisation which I have the honour to chair.
The entire Limerick & Kerry GST was included in the Irish Government’s National Cycle Network plan of 2010. It is also included in the Atlantic Coastal Route of the EuroVelo cycle network. Mr. Kenny’s Government did fund the 3km extension from Abbeyfeale to the Kerry Border in 2012 where it has languished to this day as its continuation appears to be at the whim of a separate local authority. It is patently ridiculous that an international project should be stalled at an administrative boundary several kilometres from the nearest town. Using a county boundary in this manner makes North Kerry seem more impenetrable than North Korea.
The County Limerick GST is now 40km in length but the addition of the further 50km of State railway lands lying idle in North Kerry would hugely enhance the GST Greenway experience. Incidentally, Waterford City & County Council are at present working rapidly in converting 50km of their old Waterford to Dungarvan railway into a Greenway without any difficulty because they were resolute in negotiations with objectors.
Kerry County Council say they are inundated with requests for Greenways by local communities but that most of the proposals involve routes that are too short. They conveniently omit to mention that thousands of people are in favour of continuing the GST into North Kerry, which would create the longest Greenway in the country.
Why are the Government and the local authority ignoring North Kerry?
Ownership of the line is not an issue as CIÉ own a fibre optic cable which runs along its length.
Why has Transport & Tourism Minister Pascal Donohoe eschewed a number of opportunities to visit any part of the GST during at least three recent visits to the area?
There will be no better time to put these questions to politicians than in the coming months. Government is supposed to involve leadership and vision not capitulation to vested interests.