News 2021

Title:  More Rural Recreation Officers and new trails added to the Walks Scheme
Date:  05/10/2021

More Rural Recreation Officers and new trails added to the Walks Scheme

At the official opening of St Declan’s Way on 29th September, Minister for Rural & Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, announced the addition of 31 walks to the Walks Scheme, and funding for up to eight additional Rural Recreation Officers.

Under the Walks Scheme landowners are paid for carrying out maintenance routes on trails that cross their land. The 31 walks being added to the scheme include St Declan’s Way and the Dingle Way. This brings to 80 the total number of walks included in the Walks Scheme, with a total of 2,400 farmers and landowners participating in the overall scheme.

The announcement of funding for up to eight additional Rural Recreation Officers is particularly welcome as it will significantly expand the proportion of the country with a Rural Recreation Officer in post. Rural Recreation Officers manage the Walks Scheme at local level, and many are involved in supporting the development of trails and outdoor recreation more generally in their area.

Minister Humphreys also published a review of the Walks Scheme, which sets out a number of recommendations aimed at enhancing the Walks Scheme and the role of Rural Recreation Officers.

The review includes a recommendation for a Walks Scheme model for the uplands, to be rolled out within the framework of a Mountain Access Project. The Mountain Access Project provides clarify regarding recreational access to upland areas, based on the voluntary agreement of all landowners in the area. Currently there are just two Mountain Access Areas, Binn Shléibhe (Mount Gable) in Co. Galway and the MacGillycuddy Reeks in Co. Kerry, however the Department of Rural & Community Development has committed to the expansion of this model.

Mountaineering Ireland participated in the review of the Walks Scheme and is also part of Comhairle na Tuaithe’s recently formed Sustainable Upland Recreation sub-group, the remit for which is particularly associated with the further development of the Mountain Access Programme.

This additional support and funding for landowners doing maintenance on walking routes and for outdoor recreation is very welcome. Coming at the same time as the process to develop a new National Outdoor Recreation Strategy it is all indicative of greater government recognition of the many benefits that walking, climbing and other outdoor recreation activities provide to society.

 

The Minister's announcement and the Review of the Walks Scheme are available on https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/80004-our-rural-future-minister-humphreys-announces-funding-for-31-walking-trails-to-boost-outdoor-recreation-and-rural-tourism/

Read about the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy here

The work of a Rural Recreation Officer – interview with Wicklow RRO Carol Coad 

 

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