The Government has ordered local authorities to carry out an intensive consultation process with as many as 1,000 landowners in the hope of saving a cross-country cycleway.
The Department of Transport has written to landowners in Galway who have opposed plans for the 280km Dublin-Galway Greenway amid concerns it will sever their lands.
The cycle route is being built on a phased basis stretching from Guild Street in the Dublin Docklands to Galway city, with some sections already completed, mostly on State-owned lands.
However, the section running through the towns of Loughrea, Craughwell, Clarinbridge and Oranmore has run into difficulties, with some farmers claiming that officials have threatened to use compulsory purchase order powers to acquire their lands. It is understood that the State is only interested in purchasing land with the agreement of landowners, but sources warned that unless the project was progressed, funding could be lost.
One said while the cycleway would pass through nine towns, planners were "flexible" in relation to the final route.
"What's driving this is the picturesque nature of the route, and connectivity between villages and towns, but we're flexible in between and that may be the message we're not getting across to landowners. We're not going through fields, we can go beside them," one said.
An intensive period of consultation will begin next week, led by officials from Galway, Roscommon and Westmeath county councils, as well as the National Roads Authority.
They will contact landowners on the approaches to towns and villages where the project route has to 'dock', and cannot be avoided. They will also meet landowners who have objected, and those whose lands are not on the preferred route but who may be able to provide alternatives.
Around 1,000 landowners will be consulted, of which 700 are in Galway county and 100 within the boundaries of the city. Each will be visited by two members of the consultation team, where the background to the project will be explained and the landowner asked if they are willing to facilitate the project.
It is hoped to have a final report by September, after which a decision will be taken on whether to proceed. The entire scheme could take a decade to deliver, but would be expected to deliver significant benefits to local economies. The Great Western Greenway in Mayo is worth €7m a year to the local economy.