Thursday, 17 December 2020
Department of Rural and Community Development
Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme
64. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she will consider expanding schemes such as the rural recreation scheme, the walks scheme, the outdoor recreation infrastructure scheme and other similar schemes in view of the vital services and benefits they provide to local economies; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [44159/20]
COVID-19 has reminded us all of the importance of outdoor recreation amenities for our physical and mental wellbeing.
Since 2016, my Department has invested €52 million in 747 projects under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS) and its predecessor the Rural Recreation Scheme. ORIS provides funding for the development and/or enhancement of outdoor recreational infrastructure such as cycleways, walking trails, blueways and mountain access routes in rural areas.
The recreational amenities funded through ORIS not only provide an outlet for the communities in which they are situated, but also deliver added value from a tourism and economic perspective in these areas.
The 2020 scheme has an Exchequer budget of €10 million. I was pleased to secure a 20% increase in funding for ORIS in 2021, to expand the scheme to €12 million.
The Walks Scheme is currently made up of 39 trails. In December 2019, it was announced that 10 new trails would be added as part of a phased expansion of the scheme. Work Plans are currently being finalised with the landowners on these trails so that they can be formally included under the scheme. This process has been delayed somewhat by restrictions imposed as a result of COVID-19.
The Programme for Government includes a commitment that the number of trails will increase to 80 under the Walks Scheme. I expect to announce the addition of further trails to the scheme next year in line with this commitment. The addition of these trails will be informed by the completion of an external review of the Walks Scheme which is currently in train and due to report in early 2021.