The Samuel Hayes Bridge in Rathdrum has been officially opened. The new pedestrian bridge will create a link between the Jubilee Loop Walk and the Avonmore Way over the Avonmore River.
The bridge had been named after Samuel Hayes, an 18th century Wicklow Member of Parliament who had an major influence on the development of Irish forestry and built Avondale House.
Councillor Pat Kennedy, Cathaoirleach of Wicklow County Council, officially opened the bridge last week.
'I was honoured as the local councillor and Cathaoirleach to open the new Samuel Hayes bridge. It means so much to the local people out walking. The bridge creates a link between the Jubilee Loop Walk and the Avonmore Way over the Avonmore River.
'The bridge will make it safer for locals and tourists to walk. It will be possible to walk from Hollywood in the west of the county towards Rathdrum. With the redevelopment of Avondale, I think the walks should be used more.'
Groundwork on the suspension bridge started in late March before the bespoke steel section of the bridge were installed on site. Walking infrastructure was considered to be essential construction, which meant work on the bridge could take place during Level 5 Covid restrictions.
Funding of €392,000 towards the cost of the project was allocated by the Department of Rural and Community Development under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme.
Wicklow County Council Chief Executive Frank Curran said: 'By investing in the construction of the Samuel Hayes Bridge, the long-term viability of walking routes in the area is secured, and thus allows for further economic benefit to the area by way of tourism.'
Mr Curran also paid tribute to the contractors Kenny Civils and Plant Ltd and their sub-contractors, Thompsons of Carlow, for delivering this project.
The project was a collaboration between Wicklow County Council, Coillte and the National Parks and Wildlife Service.
The bridge is named after Samuel Hayes, a barrister who represented Wicklow in the Irish House of Commons. After inheriting the estate from his father, he designed and built Avondale House in the 1770s. Samuel Hayes collected a range of tree species from all over the world which he planted in the estate grounds. According to the Irish Dictionary of Biography, Samuel Hayes introduced a bill encouraging the cultivation and preservation of trees and was the writer of Ireland's first book on trees.
Avondale House passed into the ownership of the Parnell family following his death in 1795.