For the past 4 years a local community group based in South Sligo have been campaigning to have the closed railway running through the region made into a modern greenway. This greenway would follow on the success of other greenways nationally in providing employment, generating tourism and generally contributing to both the physical and mental health of the local community.
On one hand, progress has been slow. On the other however, great strides have been made and the net result is that the creation of the greenway is nearer than ever. Much work has been done but there is a bit more to be done yet.
The campaign has brought about developments such as the creation of Sligo Greenway Co-op, the recognised community group representing the campaign. The current Sligo County Development Plan now takes into account the possible development of the greenway. Sligo County Council are also fully on board with the proposal and have in recent months submitted an application to government for the funding of the Sligo Greenway. Add to this that the fact that the Co-op has up to 1,000 paid-up shareholders and a social media following of almost 3,000 and you get some idea of the interest that has been built to date by this greenway campaign.
So, what is a greenway? Simply put, a linear park. What you can do in a park, you can do on a greenway; cycle, walk, picnic, enjoy nature and view the scenery. All this however is taking place in an off-road environment safe from speeding traffic where local families and visiting tourists alike are safe and secure. Not such a bad suggestion, I hear you say but what about the cost? Well this stretch of 35km greenway can be built with bells and whistles for €10 million. Its pay-back to the region is at a rate of €2 million per year and best of all, the funding currently available from government!
In July 2018, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport announced a new national greenway strategy with an accompanying fund of €53 million. This is the fund that Sligo County Council has applied to. More good news for the creation of the Sligo Greenway comes in the form of Irish Rail being the owners of the closed line. They are the only owner we have to deal with and they are quite willing to hand over the line under license to Sligo County Council.
So, now we get to the questions: what’s the problem? why the delay? why do we not have the greenway up and running? Well, these things take time. There are alternative ideas for the closed line. One is that it should be re-opened as a railway again. While no funds are available for this idea, it has to be examined and that takes time. Planning for the greenway has to be sought and achieved. Things need to be properly lined up; we need to have our duck in a row. Much of the work involves telling the story, explaining the benefits and then getting the right people to buy in. We are getting there but we need more time. We need strong political support and most of all we need endless patience.
The greenway is the best idea now for the closed line; The concept is proven, funds are available and the landowner is willing. Couple to this, the dire economic need for the South Sligo region. Our region needs this attraction and it needs it now.
The funding application made by Sligo County Council is currently being considered and an announcement is imminent. Let’s hope we are on the honours list for 2019!
Pat McCarrick, Sligo Greenway Campaign.
Article from Sligo Greenway Co-op