A €12 million scheme to fund recreational facilities in rural areas for the benefit of local communities and tourism will be announced by Minister for Rural Development Michael Ring on Friday.
The outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme is part of the Government’s Action Plan for Rural Development and will provide funding for the development of new projects, as well as for the promotion and maintenance of existing outdoor recreational infrastructure.
Applications to the value of €12 million will be approved this year, with the successful applications being announced at the end of August, and the scheme will be implemented up to the end of 2019.
"The facilities and amenities funded through this scheme will create better experiences for visitors to rural areas, enhance the tourism offering and support sustainable economic development in rural areas. Improved recreational facilities will also enhance the quality of life for people who live in, or close to, the supported projects," Mr Ring said.
“These projects provide wonderful amenities which enable local communities to experience the natural environment on their doorsteps. They also serve to attract visitors to the area which is great for the local businesses.”
Last year, more than 250,000 people walked or cycled the 46km Waterford Greenway in its first year in existence.
More than 70 per cent of those who used the new facility were local people who used the greenway frequently.
Four out of five visitors from outside the county stayed in paid accommodation, spending more than €100 per night in Waterford.
Some 41 per cent spent money while using the trail, and of those who spent on food and drink, the average spend was €28.50.
"Recreational tourism continues to be a significant growth area and the natural resources available to us here in Ireland offer great potential to avail of the economic benefits that this type of tourism can offer," Mr Ring said.
He said increasing so-called activity tourism was a key pillar of the Government’s plan.
“The types of facilities which will be funded through this scheme will also serve to showcase the stunning scenery and wonderful places that Ireland has to offer,” Mr Ring said.
Local development companies, many of which have been involved in the development of outdoor recreation amenities, including the Walks Scheme launched 10 years ago and covering 39 trails, will be eligible to apply for funding in their own right or as partners with local authorities.
In addition to the €12 million funding for the outdoor recreation scheme, the department will provide €2 million this year to the forestry service Coillte for the development of its leisure and recreational amenities.
Full details of the scheme will be issued to all local authorities and other bodies in the coming days.