Scheme which sees farmers paid to maintain public walks to be extended
A commitment given by Minister for Rural Affairs, Michael Ring to extend the number of walks covered by The Walks Scheme has been welcomed by IFA National Hill Committee Chairman Flor McCarthy.
The scheme involves landholders as key participants in the provision of high quality walking trails, by contracting them to undertake maintenance work on sections of National Way Marked Ways and other priority walks that traverse their lands.
The landholders receive payments which average €1,100 for maintenance work undertaken, in line with agreed work plans. The scheme currently covers 39 trails, with payments made to approximately 1,900 landholders to maintain those trails.
At a meeting of Comhairle na Tuaithe the recreational consultative body, attended by the Minister recently, Flor McCarthy said that the current Walks Scheme, which has been in existence for nearly 10 years, has proved very successful in developing tourism in peripheral and other rural areas throughout the country.
He said the extension of the scheme is now necessary as there are many more walks that could be added to the 40 already in the scheme.
The IFA hill farmer leader outlined that 2,000 farmers benefit from the scheme, worth nearly €2m and is a significant boost to farm income for those farmers participating.
At the Comhaile na Tuaithe meeting it was pointed out that recreational tourism has huge potential and it is important that the necessary infrastructure is further developed. In many of the walks, the use of the Rural Social Scheme has proved crucial, he said.
Flor McCarthy also welcomed the commitment given by the Minister to address insurance issues to protect all landowners whether they are in the Walks Scheme or not.