The rain held off for just about long enough to launch the new Longford town to Clondra Cycle/Walkway last Friday afternoon.
The historic event was held in Killashee where the Minister for Tourism & Sport Michael Ring together with Noel McGeeney, Longford/Clondra Amenity Ltd - a man who has become synonymous with the development of the Royal Canal in Longford - officially cut the ribbon and declared the new route open.
MC on the day was Cllr Micheal Carrigy, Chairman of Longford Tourism and at the opening the Mininster was effusive in his praise of the people behind the initiative.
“To the people knocking Longford, stop now,” declared the Minister simply.
“I was talking to Louis Belton yesterday and he said to me the next time I come down to Longford we would walk this new route together, and I will do that. ”
The 16 km route takes in some breathtaking scenery as well as the natural flora and fauna that is common to the landscape.
The initiative came about following a notice of motion at a local authority meeting in 2002 that was put forward by former local area representative, Paul Connell. Longford Tourism Committee, Longford County Council, Waterways Ireland and Longford Community Resources Ltd (LCRL) subsequently rowed in behind the project and finally brought it to fruition over the last few years.
“There has been a nine per cent increase in tourism in Ireland since the start of this year,” announced Minister Ring.
“There are people from all over the world coming here to avail of walking and cycling tours because we have the infrastructure in place. We want to get people out cycling and walking and become more healthy, and here in Longford we have the natural infrastructure for this to happen.”
Following a request for further exchequer funding to continue with development - which will include a spur that will connect the canal to the Shannon in Athlone - the Minister alluded to the fact that back at the cabinet table, he would certainly encourage spending.
“I know you are looking for a few bob to develop further,” he continued. “I will certainly do whatever I can for you and I look forward to working with you all in the future.
“To the people that are involved in this community, I say thank you. This is a good day for Longford.”