A new 5km stretch of the Great Western Greenway has been opened in Achill, linking Achill Sound to Cashel. The extension, which is hoped to be further developed inland on the island, was officially opened by Minister of State Jack Chambers.
Chambers was joined in the opening by Leas Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr Martin McLoughlin, and a host of dignitaries including former Minister Micheal Ring, local Councillor Paul McNamara, Western Region Manager for Transport Infrastructure for Ireland Kieran Kelly, and Deputy Chief Executive of Mayo County Council Joanne Grehan.
The start of the extension at Achill Sound has been developed as a public amenity with extensive car park, children’s playground, toilets and spaces for campervans. Some of the benches and tables installed at the site have been crafted from decommissioned blades from wind turbines. Another feature of the 5km extension is a 400m long boardwalk, constructed using sustainable and environmentally friendly products.
Speaking at the official opening, Jack Chambers, Minister of State at the Department of Transport, said: “Approximately €4 million has been spent to date by the Department of Transport in relation to the construction of this extension to Cashel. Work is underway to continue this extension by another 4km providing an almost fully segregated cycleway from Westport to Keel, I look forward to its completion in due course.”
The extension is the first stretch of Greenway to be opened since oversight of Ireland’s Greenways was passed to Transport Infrastructure Ireland. Led by Mayo County Council, it was completed in co-operation with 25 landowners and 90 commonage shareholders. Speaking at the opening, Joanne Grehan, Deputy Chief Executive of Mayo County Council, said: “I would also like to acknowledge the Mayo County Council staff across several sections who nurtured this Greenway extension from its inception to completion. It was also delivered thanks to our funding partners Transport Infrastructure Ireland, the Department of Rural and Community Development and the other partner agencies who assisted with this project.”
Leas Cathaoirleach of Mayo County Council, Cllr McLoughlin said the Great Western Greenway has been one of the most important projects that Mayo County Council have invested in over the past half a century.
“We have seen the greenway grow from an acorn of an idea to the blossoming piece of tourism infrastructure it has become today. Not only does it attract thousands of visitors a year to the county, it has seen towns and villages along the route thrive and brought vital employment to there and this extension will only increase this.”
Among those businesses to benefit are Blasta Bikes at Ted’s Pub in Cashel and Achill Sound Bike Hire in Polranny, as well as, of course, numerous shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants along the now 49km route of the Great Western Greenway.