Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
115. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she will report on her engagement with an organisation (details supplied) concerning the employment of additional rural recreational officers. [38169/21]
The Walks Scheme, which is funded by my Department, contracts landholders to undertake maintenance work on National Waymarked Ways and other priority trails that traverse their lands. The landholders receive modest payments for maintenance work undertaken in line with agreed work plans.
My Department commissioned an external review of the Walks Scheme to examine the delivery and strategic development of the Scheme, and assess the role and resourcing of the Rural Recreation Officer (RRO) posts throughout the country. The reviewers were also required to consider the level of funding provided to the Local Development Companies to deliver the scheme. The final report was received by my Department this week and I expect to be in a position to publish the report after the contents have been fully considered. The recommendations contained in the review will inform decisions on the ongoing delivery and further strategic expansion of the scheme, including the resourcing of Local Development Companies and any additional Rural Recreation Officer positions.
I am aware that an issue has arisen with the delivery of the scheme by the organisation referred to by the deputy. Officials from my Department formally met with the organisation concerned on Friday, 2nd July. I understand that the company outlined the challenges presented by the large number of participants it manages over a wide area, and the implications of this for the one full-time equivalent Rural Recreation Officer position there. It is clear that the company has a significant workload relative to other areas and I believe that this is something that we can respond to as part of the implementation of the Review of the Walks Scheme.