Thursday, 15 July 2021
Department of Rural and Community Development
128. To ask the Minister for Rural and Community Development if she plans to expand the walks scheme; if further funding will be allocated to the scheme; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [38174/21]
My Department administers the Walks Scheme through which landholders receive modest payments for maintenance works on approved walking trails that traverse their land. The payment is linked to an agreed work plan for the section of the trail maintained by the landholder.
The Walks Scheme is currently operating on 45 trails supported by 2,040 landholders and is being managed by 16 Local Development Companies (LDCs) around the country.
In December 2019, it was announced that 10 new trails would be added to the Scheme under the first phase of an expansion of the scheme. While the process of inspecting these new trails was delayed in part due to the COVID-19 restrictions, an online system was developed in late 2020 to carry out the necessary checks and inspections to allow the trails to fully join the scheme. To date, 6 of these new trails have been approved and payments have issued to landholders.
The Programme for Government contains a commitment to expand the Walks Scheme to achieve a target of 80 trails. A decision in respect of the further trails to be added to the Scheme will be taken following the publication of an external review of the Walks Scheme. Work in completing this review is well advanced and I expect to be in a position to publish the review shortly.
Trails that wish to be added to the Scheme are invited to submit an Expression of Interest to my Department. There is no closing date for Expressions of Interest at this time, and interested parties can continue to submit proposals for additional trails to be included in the scheme, through their Local Authority or Local Development Company. A trail must meet specific qualifying criteria in order to be considered eligible for the scheme, including being of a suitable standard to be included in Sport Ireland Outdoors' trail register.