First major Cork greenway could lure 250,000 visitors a year – council chief
22km Midleton to Youghal Greenway set to open by 2023 at cost of about €15m
There has been a notable positive shift towards greenways, and this was a huge positive for Co Cork, which last week was allocated €15.78 million in funding to develop greenways, Cork County Council chief executive Tim Lucey said. File photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill
Co Cork has huge potential to capitalise on the promotional drive for greenways for cyclists and walkers, with the first major greenway in the county likely to attract 250,000 visitors a year, Cork County Council chief executive Tim Lucey said.
There had been a notable positive shift towards greenways and cycling under the current Government, and this was a huge positive for the county, which last week was allocated €15.78 million in funding to develop greenways, Mr Lucey told The Irish Times.
He expected the first major such route undertaken by Cork County Council – the 22km Midleton to Youghal Greenway – to be open by 2023 at a cost of about €15 million, and with the potential to generate revenue of €11.6 million a year for the local economy.
“Our contractors have been involved in clearance work to date but we would expect actual construction of the greenway to start in March and we’re looking at about two years in construction – so we would hope to be opening it sometime in 2023,” he said.
“It will be right smack in the middle of East Cork, running along the line of the old rail link from Midleton to Youghal, so it goes through Mogeely and Killeagh and it has huge tourist potential. You will be able to take a train from Cork to Midleton, hire a bike and cycle all the way to Youghal.
“It may not have the rugged scenic headland landscape of West Cork, but East Cork does attract significant tourist numbers as it is – Fota Wildlife Park and Cobh Heritage would attract around 250,000 visitors a year, and we would expect the greenway to attract similar numbers.”
Mr Lucey said work was also progressing on extending the Blackrock to Passage West Greenway to Carrigaline to link up with the existing Carrigaline to Crosshaven amenity, to create a 25km greenway running all the way from Cork city to Crosshaven – but this was a longer-term project.
“There are proposals to run the Lee to the Sea Greenway from Inniscarra, west of the city through the city down to Blackrock and Passage and on to Monkstown, Raffeen Carrigaline and Crosshaven, but our priority at the moment would be the Passage to Carrigaline section,” he said.
Mr Lucey said that realistically it could take five years to get to a position where construction could start on the Passage West to Carrigaline section as a feasibility study must be completed, lands secured, a detail designed and then planning permission obtained.
Elsewhere, Mr Lucey said he was confident of the council developing a near 30km greenway along the route of the old Mallow to Fermoy railway line, which skirts the Blackwater, but this was still at a very preliminary stage and would take many years to come to fruition.
According to Mr Lucey, Iarnród Éireann allowed landowners in North Cork to buy up some of the rail corridor adjacent to their property, which could be challenging for the council, but it’s hoped to begin the joint feasibility study with Waterford City and County Council later this year.
Mr Lucey said Cork County Council was also looking at the possibility of developing a greenway along the route of the former Cork to Bandon and South Coast Railway between Innishannon and Bandon, which again would prove popular with visitors given its scenic setting overlooking the Bandon river.
“Innishannon to Bandon is a challenging one and while we’re not actively working on it at the moment it is one we would like to start work on at some stage – it would be a superb amenity, connecting the two communities,” he added.
Mr Lucey acknowledged that extending the route back towards the city would enable the greenway to incorporate Ireland’s longest disused railway tunnel at Goggins Hill at Ballinhassig but the focus would be very much of developing the Bandon to Innishannon section as a first step.