There is nowhere as beautiful as Lanesboro on a sunny day and no small wonder that the Shannonside town has been nominated, this year, for a national Pride of Place award by Longford Co Council.
The town and its surroundings are currently on the cusp of a wave with major developments in its water and eco-tourism already in the pipeline.
The whole community has come on board; resources are being pooled and the people of Lanesboro and Ballyleague have come together like never before in an effort to turn their locality into the ‘Killarney’ of the midlands!
Last week, Pride of Place judges William Beatty and Owen Connelly were in Longford to find out exactly what the plans for Lanesboro were all about. They were treated to a wonderful presentation at the local library which is located at the heart of the beautiful village, and afterwards they said they were more than “impressed” by what they learned about the area.
Seadna Ryan - who made the presentation - said that Lanesboro’s “calling card” was its schools, facilities and its landscapes. “Angling and cruising were big in the 1970s and ‘80’s,” he told a packed library. “Now there are other attractions being developed and it is our job to get it all ready for the generations to come.”
As we speak, there are plans in place to redevelop the town park area of Lanesboro; underground ESB cable; install flood lighting on the bridge; develop forestry and a cycleway to link Lanesboro to the Royal Canal at Killashee, create a Mid Shannon Wilderness Park, and the creation of a sustainable and vibrant community for everyone.
“There has to be an economic thread going through all of this,” Mr Ryan continued. “We must be innovative and different. There will be challenges - many of which include change, resources, leadership and vision, and planning and execution, but one way to tackle all these head on is to included everyone in the community.”
And the entire community, it seems, has come on board. There was mention of the local Tidy Towns committee and its volunteers; Lanesboro Tourism Co-op; members of the local employment scheme; school children; their parents and just about everyone else in the area. “Every single group in the community is helping and Waterways Ireland and Coillte have also come on board - it is very exciting to be honest,” said Mr Ryan. “Bord na Mona and the ESB are the pulse of this community and they too have come on board.”
Lanesboro and its environs has a deep and rich heritage. It is envisaged that this will be exploited to the maximum in conjunction with the tourism potential there, and that further research will unveil some very interesting historical facts about the area.
School children in Lanesboro have already undertaken a project in relation to the Scramogue Ambush 1921. Brian from Lanesboro Community College told those present that some very interesting facts were discovered during the research of the ambush. “We found out all about the tactics that were used and we also got the opportunity to examine documents and old newspapers,” he added. “This project is nearly ready for viewing and will be on display shortly.”
A flagship project in the area involves the local triathlon club and Race Director, Two Provinces Triathlon, Neil Donohoe said that the national organisation - Triathlon Ireland - was now interested in including Lanesboro in the national championships - held annually. According to Mr Donohoe, this is a “wonderful opportunity” for Lanesboro. “We would regard our facilities very highly and the riverbank is absolutely ideal for a triathlon,” he excitedly added. “We started out here four years ago with a small number of athletes; this year we had over 700. Every single community group was represented on that day - everyone worked together and the event was absolutely fantastic - we can do more of this here.”
And probably one of the most amazing stories of the day was one from the local boy scouts. The gathering heard that the club had secured an old barge and its next project was to restore her to her former glory. “This barge - the 113B- was constructed in Dublin in 1937 and was used on the canal until the late 1950’s,” Liam Kelly, Scouts Leader told judges. “It was used by CIE from 1960 - 2010 on Lough Ree when it was then decommissioned. We now have it in our possession - thanks to Waterways Ireland - and we are going to restore it. It will become the mothership of the Royal Canal and will be used for local trips and to support the kayakers, canoers and all those who engage in watersports locally.”
The scouts are the only troupe in Europe to secure such a prestigious barge and its location in Lanesboro brought deep pride to proceedings at the Library last week.
In fact after a number of presentations were made to the judges and to local supporters of the overall project, the judges paid tribute to all that has been, and will be, achieved in Lanesboro. “I am gobsmacked by the vision shown here,” said Mr Connolly. “The amount of people who have contributed to this is amazing and to me the vision and team work shown is fantastic. This shows me the deep richness of heritage and environment that is Lanesboro.”
Proceedings then moved outside as the judges were brought on a pit stop tour of the area, and for those who remained indoors, they were treated to some wonderful melodies on the harp by Edel Loftus and her daughter. Margaret Nahilly also read a poem entitled ‘Woodland on My Doorstep’ which she penned herself and Cllr Gerard Farrell (FG) concluded proceedings by saying, “We are committed to bringing lanesboro to its full potential in the years ahead”.