Barrow towpath campaign

Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 01:04

Sir, – I was surprised at the piece “Olivia O’Leary leads campaign to save grassy Co Kilkenny towpath” (August 19th). I find it strange that a person of Ms O’Leary’s obvious intellect would take such an elitist approach to the proposal to restore a narrow strip of the derelict towpath along the Barrow navigation. I’ve seen “nimbyism” before, but never in relation to amenities for families such as proposed by Waterways Ireland for this overgrown towpath.

When the motorway bridge was proposed over the Broadmeadows estuary near Swords in Co Dublin, it was predicted that hundreds of swans would die as they crashed into a bridge that hadn’t been there when they last looked. I cycled under that bridge a few weeks back, protected from speeding traffic only by the strip of pink tarmac on which I rode, and I didn’t see a single dead swan anywhere. I did, however, dream of a few long routes in Ireland where I could cycle or walk in safety, and the Barrow line would fit that bill nicely.

Why would anyone object to the kind of cycling and walking infrastructure that is normal in all civilised countries but a rarity here? What is the problem with providing a safe place for families to walk, cycle and push buggies in a safe, traffic-free environment? Why would someone who purports to love the countryside consider that it should be available only to an elite few? Why should people in wheelchairs be excluded from enjoying a long trek by the beautiful Barrow? What is wrong with high-spending cycling and walking tourists?

We own very few linear corridors in Ireland that are suitable for the provision of infrastructure that is the norm elsewhere. The few canals and the disused railways lines that haven’t been lost to squatters could make this a better country for its inhabitants and a destination for the millions of tourists that go where the trails are, in Germany, Hungary and along the Danube and other European rivers. We need to welcome this investment by Waterways Ireland with open arms.

Cyclists and walkers tend to be sensitive nature lovers, so I wouldn’t worry too much about their impact on the wildlife; like the swans at Swords, the birds and animals will adapt. The nimbys, I fear, may take a little longer. – Yours, etc,

JOHN MULLIGAN,

Kiltycreighton,

Boyle, Co Roscommon.