Two Ministers of State, Andrew Doyle and Brendan Griffin, visited Blessington today (19 October 2017) and met Blessington & District Forum to discuss plans for the further development of Blessington Greenway. The Forum was represented by Chairman Michael Sargent, Kilian McGreal and John Horan.

The existing Greenway covers 6.5kms of walking and cycling trails through the forest and woodlands taking in some spectacular scenery adjacent to the shoreline of Blessington Reservoir – more commonly referred to as Blessington Lakes. It joins the historic town of Blessington to the Palladian mansion of Russborough House. It is now planned that further phases will be developed and will continue around the lakes for another 40kms looping back to Blessington.

At today’s meeting Minister Doyle said that he has been a long-term supporter of the development of Blessington Greenway. “The promoters of the Greenway are aware of my strong support for this excellent project. My objective now is to ensure that my Ministerial colleagues are left in no doubt as to the added value which the completion of the Greenway can bring to not just Wicklow but to the Irish economy as a whole”.

Minister Griffin who has special responsibility for Tourism and Sport acknowledged that walking and cycling tourism represents an area with massive growth potential. “This is just the first phase of a great project to run a new Greenway right around Blessington Lakes. From what I know of the progress to-date it’s a good example of how community spirit can make things happen. I know that Wicklow County Council, ESB and other public bodies have been key players but full credit must go to the Blessington Forum for the initiative and for their continuing commitment to seeing it completed.”

A study carried out by Trinity College, Dublin found that cycle ways such as this could boost tourist numbers and have a real economic benefit. Blessington & District Forum Chairman, Michael Sargent, said that the Blessington Greenway development represents great value for money and will provide a much needed flagship tourism project in the heart of the Ancient Ireland tourism region. “A community based body has demonstrated that the job can be done. The completion of the further phases of this exciting new tourism project now requires the direct involvement of Failte Ireland together with the provision of the necessary funding from appropriate national level sources”, he said.

The Greenway project was first envisaged in the Wicklow County Development Plan and has been implemented under the auspices of the Forum. John Horan has managed the project on behalf of the Forum and he said that “a wide range of stakeholders including Co Wicklow Partnership, ESB, Wicklow County Council, Failte Ireland and Wicklow Tourism have been supportive of this development”.

Detailed Cultural, Heritage and Ecological Impact Assessments were carried out to ensure that the development would have no potentially negative impacts on what is a “sensitive” area from a number of viewpoints. “Among the hurdles which had to dealt with along the way was an ancient medieval ringfort on the route and a special raised ramp was constructed to cross this area and to open it up for viewing by those who pass along the Greenway”, according to Mr Horan. “Similarly we had to be conscious of our many feathered friends – particularly the summer nesting birds and a range of measures were implemented to mitigate any impact the Greenway might have on them”, he said.

Speaking at the meeting Kilian McGreal explained that “The site is shovel ready. The intended route for the completion of the Greenway has a single land owner, the ESB, which is of a huge benefit in completing the project. There is massive community support for the Greenway in Blessington and planning permission is in place. Phase one of the Blessington Greenway from Blessington to Russborough has proven it can be done!” Mr McGreal concluded.

For further information contact John Horan, at blessingtongreenway@gmail.com or on 086 8075619.