Minister Varadkar officially opens Great Southern Trail

Minister for Transport, Tourism & Sport Leo Varadkar today (Saturday, 23 February, 2013) officially opened a new section of The Great Southern Trail in Abbeyfeale, County Limerick.
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Connolly - Clare - Ireland

Feb. 23, 2013 - PRLog -- The 3-kilometre walking and cycling trail runs along the old Limerick to Tralee railway line from the West Limerick town to the Kerry County boundary at Kilmorna, and represents an extension of the existing 38km of trail that runs to Abbeyfeale via Newcastle West and Rathkeale.

The Great Southern Trail has been developed by Limerick County Council and the Great Southern Trail Group Ltd. with support from various public bodies including the Department of Transport, Tourism & Sport, Fáilte Ireland, West Limerick Resources and CIE.

Speaking today, Minister Varadkar said: “It’s great to see the local community and various organisations coming together to develop this facility. Cycling and walking are increasingly popular, and an off-road trail like this is a fantastic facility. It encourages people to get out and about for their own health and enjoyment, and is important for the rapidly-growing activity tourism sector. This extension was completed after Minister of State Alan Kelly announced €290,000 in funding for the project last year. Congratulations to everyone, and I look forward to further developments.”

Councillor Jerome Scanlan, Cathaoirleach of Limerick County Council said the development “will reap significant health, social and economic benefits for the wider community.”

“The extension of the Great Southern Trail will enhance the recreational opportunities for children, youths and adults in the community. The fact that the Trail conveniently passes through such population areas also presents a wonderful opportunity to showcase what else West Limerick has to offer as a visitor destination. This will encourage domestic and international visitors to stay longer in the area, which can only have positive knock-on effects for the local economy,” he added.

According to Mr. Conn Murray, Limerick City & County Manager: “The Great Southern Trail puts West Limerick on the map in more ways than one. Along with being an important piece of recreational and tourism infrastructure for the local community, it also has the potential to tap into the increase in recent years of tourists interested in walking and cycling activities.”

Figures show that there has been a 40% increase in overseas participants in hiking and hill walking to the Shannon Region since 2006 and a 35% increase in tourism revenue from walking activities in the same period.  Cycling holidays are also on the up amongst domestic and foreign tourists alike.

Mr. Murray explained: “West Limerick is now well placed to take advantage of this growing market and position itself as a leading tourism trail destination. This will be achieved through the joint co-operation of all tourism stakeholders in the development and marketing of the Great Southern Trail and wider area. The Council is committed to enhancing the role of Abbeyfeale as a tourism destination, being located on a major tourist route, and as a base for tourism for the wider West Limerick area.”

The existing sections of the Great Southern Trail are maintained by workers on a Rural Social Scheme administered by West Limerick Resources Ltd., a Local Development Company. The 3km extension is maintained by the Scheme with assistance from Limerick County Council.

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