New forest recreation facilities in Oughterard


Eamón ÓCuiv, TD, Minister for Community, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs officially opened three new forest recreational facilities near Oughterard, Co. Galway.

The facilities, which have been developed by Coillte in partnership with Failte Ireland at a cost of €800,000, comprise the Derroura Mountain Bike Trail, the Lackavrea Boardwalk and the New Village loop walks.

The Oughterard facilities are part of the Forest Recreation Infrastructure Development Programme, which provides state-of-the-art outdoor recreation facilities for walkers and cyclists at 35 locations countrywide. This programme is being implemented by Coillte with 75% funding from Failte Ireland from the Tourism Support Measures under the National Development Plan.

The Derroura development includes a 14km track for mountain bikes, a car park and associated trail information, signage and trail marking. The trail was planned and designed by one of the world’s leading trail designers to have a low impact on the environment during construction and to require low maintenance during many years of use.

The local community and businesses, mountain bike enthusiasts, National Parks and Wildlife Service and the Western Regional Fisheries Board were all consulted to ensure the best possible plan with the minimum environmental impact. Already fully operational, the facility is attracting significant numbers of visitors.

The Lackavrea boardwalk was initiated in response to a concern that it might be necessary to close a section of the Western Way for safety reasons. Coillte offered to reroute the facility through its land and to instal a boardwalk to ensure its long-term sustainability and safety.

At 4.5kms long, it is the longest boardwalk in Ireland and was constructed by a local contractor from new timber and from recycled railway sleepers. This project benefited from close cooperation between Galway County Council, other landowners and Coillte and public consultation took place to ensure there was full understanding of the need for the planned works.

The New Village loop walks provide additional loops off the Western Way and will enhance the walking opportunities in the Oughterard area.

Commenting at the launch, Minister Ó Cuív said - “The development of the rural recreation and tourism sector is a key factor in ensuring the improved well-being of rural areas. This is a shining example of what can be achieved through cooperation and an open-minded approach to how an area can harness its strengths and potential to everyone’s benefit.”

The Minister added that forest-related tourism and recreation in Coillte’s forests generate an estimated €268 million of economic activity for the rural economy every year.

David Gunning, CEO, Coillte noted - “These three projects are superb examples of how we, in Coillte, are maximising the benefits to local people, sporting interests and tourism, from the forests we have in beautiful locations like Connemara. Over 18 million visitors per year visit Coillte recreational areas and we are delighted to be working with Minister Ó Cuív, Failte Ireland and other stakeholders to improve and expand the available infrastructure of walking, hiking, biking, multi access and long distance trails.

"Coillte is committed to providing enhanced, sustainable recreation opportunities, but we must also ensure that this valuable contribution is recognised and its management resourced into the future.”