Funding boost for Shannonbridge to Athlone Greenway proposal

Hopes that a Greenway will be developed between Shannonbridge and Athlone received a significant boost this week, when Offaly County Council was granted €95,000 to help plan the project.

The initiative is described as the 'Shannon Monastic Greenway' in reference to the fact it would be a new link for bicycle and pedestrian access to the Clonmacnoise heritage site, one of the most popular visitor attractions in the region.

The €95,000 granted to the county council is due to fund "feasibility, consultation, route selection, design and environmental screenings" for the proposed 28-kilometre Greenway.

Andrew Murray, a senior planner with the council, said it was hoped the Greenway link would help entice more of Clonmacnoise's visitors to spend half a day, or a night, within the county rather than just visiting the heritage site and leaving Offaly immediately.

Offaly County Council's funding application said the project would be an "iconic" Greenway that would link a number of attractions such as Athlone Castle, the planned cycle bridge over the Shannon in Athlone, the Shannon Callows, Eiscir Riada, Clonmacnoise, and Shannonbridge.

While the route selection work has not yet been mapped out, Mr Murray said it was likely that the route would be mainly off-road and would cross peatlands that are transitioning from peat extraction.

The council said the feasibility work on the Greenway would be "heavily weighed towards consultation" with landowners and members of the public.

A "route options approach" will be taken "to whittle down options to an acceptable and appropriately designed route".

The funding was announced on Wednesday by Minister Eamon Ryan, and was part of a total of €4.5 million awarded from the 2020 Carbon Tax Fund to 26 Greenway projects across the country.

Separate to the Offaly County Council funding, a group which was set up to campaign for the development of an Athlone to Clonmacnoise Greenway recently made its own funding application to the Just Transition Fund.

The Athlone to Clonmacnoise Greenway group was seeking funding approval for an initial phase of the Greenway, and also for the longer-term development of a light rail service across the bog from Athlone to Shannonbridge.

It was proposing that the initial phase of the Greenway would be undertaken, from design stage to completion, by Bord na Mona staff, and that the costs would be paid from the Just Transition Fund.

Flan Barnwell, secretary of the Athlone to Clonmacnoise Greenway Group welcomed the funding awarded to Offaly County Council this week, saying it could only be a positive development towards seeing the Greenway come to fruition.

"We feel that there is now an unstoppable momentum developing behind this (proposed Greenway)," he said.

Mr Murray said he had been in contact with the Greenway group and that everyone was "on the same hymn sheet" in wanting to see the amenity come to fruition.

Meanwhile, Offaly County Council has also secured funding of €60,000 for a feasibility study and environmental screenings for a potential off-road cycleway route linking Kilbeggan and the Old Rail Trail at Streamstown.

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