THE redeveloped Guagán Barra Forest Park in Co Cork was launched yesterday by Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs Minister Éamon Ó Cuív.
Coillte developed the site during 2007 and 2008, with the upgrading of the present trails and the addition of new trails and facilities under the Forest Recreation Infrastructure Programme.
Part of the National Development Plan, the Forest Recreation Infrastructure Programme is designed to increase public access to Coillte lands. It is funded by Fáilte Ireland, the Forest Service and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, under the NeighbourWood Scheme.
Mr Ó Cuív said his department is providing €1.5 million funding to Coillte this year. As the state’s largest land-owner and as a member of Comhairle na Tuaithe, Coillte has played a key role in facilitating access to countryside recreation, with positive health and economic benefits for both rural and urban communities.
“The Coillte initiatives fit very well with the range of solutions we are developing to facilitate agreed access to the countryside and the development of }rural recreation,” he said.
Mr Ó Cuív said a large step forward was taken this year with the appointment of 12 rural recreation officers. An integral part of their role will be to promote walking tourism in areas where there are clusters of suitable, accessible walks. The National Walks Scheme, which he launched in early March, was initially piloted in the four areas where rural recreation officers (RROs) have been appointed.
It will also be rolled out to eight other areas where RROs have been appointed. The scheme has since been extended to include the Beara Way and loops in counties Donegal and Tipperary. Under this scheme, landholders receive payment for the development, maintenance and enhancement of approved national waymarked ways and looped walking routes that pass through their land or alternatively, their maintenance under the Rural Social Scheme.