Towpaths and greenways

 

Sir, – Olivia O’Leary made some points with which I agree (June 15th).

The Deise Greenway in Waterford is indeed a fantastic asset to the area and the letter gives a good indication as to its level of usage.

She correctly states that there is no comparison between it and the Barrow towpath, nor indeed with any plans envisaged for the Barrow towpath. The Deise Greenway is laid in “very nice tarmac” but it is important to point out there are no such plans to provide such a surface on the Barrow towpath.

Waterways Ireland does not propose to lay down a hard surface for cyclists. It is planned to upgrade 85 per cent of the Barrow towpath with compacted, unbound stone and dust, actually replacing what is currently there on a like-for-like basis. It must be noted that when the towpath was originally constructed for horses to pull the canal barges, it was constructed using unbound stone and dust. Some 8 per cent of the towpath will be upgraded with tarmac at approaches to road crossings. Some 6 per cent of the towpath will be upgraded with bound surface dressing – again replacing existing surfaces on a like-for-like basis. Some 1 per cent of the towpath will be upgraded with a concrete surface. This section is planned for the tidal flooding section at St Mullins so as to provide a robust surface for users and future sustainability.

From an environmental point of view, Waterways Ireland employed independent environmental consultants to undertake detailed baseline ecological surveys of the entire route. It conducted a comprehensive environmental impact assessment with resultant environmental impact statement, which contained further assessments on issues, including built and culture heritage, and a habitats directive assessment with a resultant natura impact statement.

With mitigating measures in place, little or no significant adverse impacts of the development were found.

The proposal will improve access to the Barrow towpath for a wide range of users including walkers, recreational cyclists, wheelchair users and families, and will enhance safety and accessibility in all weather conditions.

The ultimate aim is to provide a path that further encourages increased local usage and a “slow tourism” experience for the visitor, where all can hear the beautiful birdsong, watch the fish jump and experience the abundant culture and heritage that the area has to offer.

Waterways Ireland has successfully developed such paths on the north Shannon without impacting on the wildlife or fauna, where all users enjoy the wonderful experiences without intimidating each other. These developments have, however, had a huge impact on the revitalisation of the local rural economy, and I would encourage all readers to come and experience that area, and thereafter take a fully informed view. – Yours, etc,

JOHN BOYLE,

Director of Business

Development,

Waterways Ireland,

Sligo Road,

Enniskillen,

Co Fermanagh.