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Landowners Pave The Way For Major Clare Tourism Project

39 private landowners have pledged their support for a major tourism project that will provide improved public access to some of County Clare’s most scenic coastal locations.

The Clare Coastal Walk Project, the contract for which was signed today, will be a stand alone coastal walk linking the villages of Doolin and Liscannor, and also will become part of the Burren Way long distance walking route.

Targeted at the more experienced walker, the upgraded walk will take approximately 12.7 kilometres of the existing Burren Way off tarred road and onto the scenic coastal path along by the iconic Cliffs Of Moher from Doolin to Hags head, and then on minor roads into the village of Liscannor.

The Clare Coastal Walk Project is a collaborative effort between Clare County Council (the contracting authority), Shannon Development, Clare Local Development Company, The National Trails Office, Fáilte Ireland, and the local community and landowners

Speaking at today’s contract signing in Hotel Doolin, Mayor of Clare Councillor Pat Hayes said the project will significantly improve the Burren Way, while also providing a spectacular linear walking product for visitors to the villages of Lahinch, Doolin, Liscannor, and all villages in the wider Burren region.

Mayor Hayes said the project will provide a welcome boost to the local economy for many years to come, thanks to the support of local landowners as well as a significant number of local, regional and national development agencies.

“The Burren area is a Failte Ireland Walkers Welcome destination, with local service providers becoming more focused on attracting and catering for walking visitors. The potential to develop and expand on local tourism businesses around this new walk will be great for the local villages. There is even potential for walkers of this new linear route, to travel back to their starting point by sea, availing of an existing cruise service between Doolin and Liscannor which allows visitors to view the world famous Cliffs of Moher from the sea”, he added.

Phil Deegan Tourism Product Development Executive with Shannon Development commented: “This development will provide yet another good reason to visit the Shannon Region and further strengthens the portfolio of the many excellent looped and linear walks that have been upgraded and developed under the Shannon Region Trails Programme which was launched by us in 2007. Co. Clare in particular has benefited hugely from the program and this project is another wonderful example of partnership in action with the local community working with state agencies to make the project a reality.

“Latest statistics show that walking in Ireland is one of the top activities enjoyed by holidaymakers with 700,000 visitors from overseas enjoying this activity in 2010. Projected trends show the huge potential for further growth in this market. It is envisaged that this route will be one of the most spectacular coastal routes in the country and will attract the type of visitors that will stay longer in the area”, added Ms. Deegan.

According to Eimer McCarthy of Clare Local Development Company (CLDC): “The upgrading of this coastal path will offer a unique perspective on coastal walking along an area of land that is world renowned. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the agencies involved and especially to thank the landowners for their time and support until now, and in the coming months, during the upgrading works”.

75% of the funding for the multi-agency initiative is being provided by Failte Ireland, under the National Development Plan 2007 - 2013 with the balance being funded by Clare County Council and Shannon Development. Clare Local Development Company secured the involvement of local landowners in the project, which is being supported by the National Parks and Wildlife Service. The successful contractor for the project is County Wexford-based Metro Building Contractors Ltd, while Burren Way Ltd. will manage the walk when it is completed in April 2012.

Gerard Kennedy Chairman of Burren Way Ltd. commented: “We have been challenged to make the Burren Way a world-class walking route and following other significant developments on the route in recent years the addition of the Clare Coastal Walk will go a long way towards achieving our goal.”

Background To The Clare Coastal Walk Project

In 2007, the potential for the coastal path between Doolin and Liscannor to become an official walking route was highlighted locally to the Burren Connect Project. A working group was set up, with a view to exploring the possibility of securing comprehensive landowner permission for walkers to walk the route. The introduction of the Walks Scheme and a Rural Recreation Officer to Co. Clare in 2008, as well as the provision of Public Liability Insurance by Clare County Council for landowners on the route, it was felt would greatly assist this process. Funding for the significant upgrade works required also had to be secured, and it was decided that National Development Plan funding available to Local Authorities was the most suitable funding option.

Daithi De Forge, technical expert with the National Trails Office carried out an initial inspection of the route in 2009, and deemed it suitable for upgrading. Landowner permission was the most important element of this project, and with 39 private landowners farming the land right out to the cliff edge on a 12.7 km stretch between Doolin and Liscannor, the working group set about discussing the proposal with them. As the existing path was seriously eroded, and missing in places, landowners support in these sections was critical to actually even having a route for the walk. Individual and group meetings were held locally and on site with all landowners during 2009 and 2010. The IFA as well as all members of the working group were present at the group meetings, to address common queries and concerns. Funding was secured and landowner agreement was reached by the end of 2010.

Due to the designation of the area as a Special Protection Area, the National Parks and Wildlife Service were involved from the start, and following an Appropriate Assessment earlier this year, the proposed upgrade to the path was given the green light. The tender process has been managed by Clare County Council, with work to be carried out by Metro Building Contractors Ltd.

For Information on all of the trails in the Shannon Region visit www.shannonregiontrails.ie Descriptions of the Loops and a downloadable map are available on this site.

Source: Mark Dunphy - Landowners Pave The Way For Major Clare Tourism Project