The Waterford Greenway has proven a tremendous success but the challenge now for local tourism interests is to encourage visitors to stay longer in the area, according to Waterford City and County chief executive Michael Walsh.
Speaking on the first anniversary of the opening of the 46km walking and cycling route from Waterford city to Dungarvan, Mr Walsh said that the Waterford Greenway had the potential to transform tourism in the region.
“The Waterford Greenway has had an incredible economic, social and cultural impact on all the communities which straddle the 46km-long route. It has captured the local and national imagination and has been a huge magnet for visitors to this region.
“The challenge ahead now will be to build on this success and encourage those visiting to stay longer and explore more of Viking Waterford while they’re here,” said Mr Walsh. He added that almost 250,000 people used the greenway between March and December last year.
Mr Walsh said it had been a phenomenal first year for the greenway, developed at a cost of €15 million. It scooped the Grand Prix Award and Best Tourism Initiative prizes at the All Ireland Community and Council Awards earlier this year.
"The coastal towns and villages, the communities of the Comeragh Mountains and the Copper Coast, the great houses and gardens of the Blackwater and so many other amazing tourist offerings in and around Waterford city and county all stand to benefit," he said
Mr Walsh pledged that Waterford City and County Council would work with local communities and tourism interests from the city, west to the county bounds with Cork, to ensure that "the Waterford Greenway lifts all boats."
Among those to have enjoyed the Waterford Greenway since it was officially opened by Tánaiste Simon Coveney, are sport stars, Paul O'Connell, Sonia O'Sullivan, Sam Bennett and Niamh Briggs as well as Waterford hurling supremo Derek McGrath, actor Carrie Crowley and model Roz Purcell.
The greenway runs alongside the river Suir and Mount Congreve Gardens near the city, across eleven bridges, over three viaducts and through a 400m tunnel en route to Dungarvan Bay.
Mr Walsh revealed that Sunday is set to be a family-focused celebration of the amenity’s first birthday, with costumed characters available for selfies at strategic locations between 2pm and 5pm. Several local businesses are organising promotions to tie in with the birthday theme.
Meanwhile the Green Party in Cork has backed the idea of a 45km-long Lee to Sea route running from the Inniscarra Dam, some 14km upstream of Cork city, to Crosshaven at the mouth of Cork Harbour.
Green Party representative in the Cork City South Central ward Justin Fleming said a Lee to Sea attraction, recently mooted by Cork cycling campaign chairman Dean Venables, would pass the Ballincollig Regional Park and the Mardyke Walk all the way down to Cork Harbour.
Mr Fleming noted the success of the Waterford Greenway and said the Lee to Sea greenway could rival it in length. And it is achievable as long stretches are already in place, but new sections would be needed from Ballincollig to the Mardyke and through Patrick Street in the city.
“One of the jobs will be to connect these existing fragments where the cycle lane comes to an abrupt end. Two priorities should be linking the Marina and the cycle superhighway along the old Blackrock railway line to the city centre and linking the Lee Fields to the Mardyke Walk.”