Wednesday, 10 April 2019
Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht
224. To ask the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht the extent to which Waterways Ireland continues to develop and improve the canals; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [16954/19]
Waterways Ireland continues to work with local authorities to develop the towpath along the Royal Canal. In July 2019 this work will be completed and Ireland’s longest off-road walking and cycling trail, the Royal Canal Greenway, from Maynooth to Richmond Harbour in Clondra, Co Longford (120km) will be launched.
Waterways Ireland is also working with Offaly County Council, Kildare County Council, South Dublin Council and Dublin City Council to develop the Grand Canal towpath from Grand Canal Dock to Shannon Harbour in Co Offaly as a walking and cycling route for recreational, tourism and commuter purposes. Waterways Ireland is leading a collaborative application under the Greenway Strategy for development of the Grand Canal towpath into a greenway.
In Dublin a programme to upgrade the towpaths into premium walking and cycleways has been on-going for a number of years. The development of the canal towpaths provides a unique opportunity to deliver off-road walking and cycling and the potential to connect Dublin to the many rural communities along the waterways in the Midlands.
Waterways Ireland is working with Kilkenny and Carlow County Councils on the development of a recreational and tourism hub on public lands and property in the Graiguenamanagh and Tinnahinch areas. In addition, the Body has created and promoted the operation of Activity Hubs in Carlow and Mullingar where activity providers offer visitors the opportunity to participate in walking, cycling and paddle sports. In July 2018, 20km of Blueway trails (walking, cycling and paddling) opened at Mullingar Harbour on the Royal Canal.
Waterways Ireland continually seeks partnerships with other bodies such as Canoeing Ireland and Athletics Ireland to develop programmes and promote physical activity on its property.
The Paddles Up and Blueway 10k programmes with Canoeing Ireland gave people the opportunity to learn a new sport. The partnership with Athletics Ireland will see a range of programmes such as Fit4Life and the Daily Mile take place along the canals and help promote improved levels of fitness, health and wellness.
Waterways Ireland is carrying out an on-going programme to reuse built heritage assets such as lock houses which have become unused for new recreational purposes. For example, the 1st lock house on the Royal Canal has been redeveloped as an outdoor activity hub by the Adventure Partnership.
Annual maintenance works continue with weed cutting, grass and hedge cutting, landing jetty repairs, rehabilitation of masonry structures, navigation channel dredging, removal of fallen trees and lock chamber repairs.
Waterways Ireland continues to work with all stakeholders to regularise boating and to ensure equality for all users on the canals. The Body invests significant time and effort in ensuring that vessels on the canal network are appropriate for the canals, and that vessels which could provide a potential closure of the navigation are dealt with in accordance with the bye-laws.