Despite the miserable weather, GAA, rugby and even great surf conditions over 100 people (and a good collection of dogs) came out on Sunday last for the 4th Walk the Line to call for the continuation of the Tralee to Fenit Greenway. The group braved the wind and rain and walked the completed section of the Greenway from the Big River out to Mounthawlk, where representatives of community groups, the Great Southern Trail and election candidates called time on excuses and demanded that work recommence on the route, before a group continued on further to the junction of the Feint and North Kerry railways.
With the general election campaign in full swing it was great to see a number of candidates for the Kerry constituency attend the walk and show their support for the project, those included, Donal Corcoran (Renua), Michael Fitzgerald (Green Party) and Brendan Griffin (Fine Gael). Apologies were also received from Arthur Spring (Labour), Martin Ferris (Sinn Fein) and John Brassil (Fianna Fail) who although unable to attend gave the full support for the project.
In 2009 Spa-Fenit parish council secured funding for a project that had been talked about or years, namely the redevelopment of the old Tralee to Fenit railway as a greenway.
By 2011 there was still no development with the project due to stories of ‘individuals’ claiming ownership of the state-owned land, lack of funding, planning issue and issues dealing with CIE. With fears that this project might never see the light of day a group of people young and old came out on a miserable October Sunday afternoon to Walk the Line, and despite the erection of barricades that’s what they did. Weeks before Christmas on an equally miserable Sunday people came out to Walk the Line again, this time not even a JCB and barbed wire could stop them… within months of these walks despite years of inaction, work began on the line, the fruits of which we can see today.
That was 2011, we now find ourselves in 2016 and despite a 500m extension to the train station the story is much the same, depending on who you talk to this lack of progress is down to ‘individuals’ claiming ownership of the state-owned land, lack of funding and planning issues, issues dealing with CIE or some combination of the above.
It took people power to get what we have today and if we want to see further progress we have to ensure that this project is not forgotten about.
If you wish to see progression of this trail to Fenit then make a stand, come Walk the Line this Sunday the 7th of February, meeting at St. Brendan’s Church 2.30 or a 3pm departure.
And remember politicians will also be calling to your door over the next few weeks, make sure you ask them about this project which could revitalise the area.
After 25 years of tireless work developing the greenway along the old Tralee to Limerick railway the Great Southern Trail Limited have decided to cease managing the day to day running of the route.
For Limerick this makes a lot of sense as managing the route was proving taxing for a voluntary community group and it will be better managed and promoted by Limerick County Council.
This is great news for the Kerry too as the change of role will hopefully free up time and resources for the group to return to an advocacy role and to help realise of the rest of the route, from the Kerry border to Fenit.
The full statement is bellow, hat off to all involved for the great work, here to another 25 year, but hopefully it wont take that long !
The Directors of the Great Southern Trail Limited (GST) have decided to cease managing the Greenway as and from Sunday November 8th 2015 and their licence with CIÉ who are the owners of the Greenway will end. The GST thanks the Board of CIÉ for their vision in 2002 in facilitating the initial development of what was to become the first rural Greenway in Ireland along CIÉ property.
The GST is the only Greenway in Europe which is currently managed by a voluntary group. This fact had its origins over 25 years ago when the then State Agency, Shannon Development, withdrew from what had been their flagship and visionary Greenway project. As a result the prospect of the old Limerick-Tralee railway being reclaimed as farmland loomed large with the consequent loss of a very valuable State owned corridor. To safeguard the railway right of way the GST was founded and with excellent public support much of the old line was subsequently rejuvenated.
Initially only the 4km from Newcastle West to Ardagh was opened to the public as a walking route. Gradually, the GST was extended to 40km in West Limerick from Rathkeale westwards to the Kerry Border and upgraded to a cycleway. This success has placed a considerable onus on a volunteer group and despite the support of Community Employment, Rural Social and TÚS schemes the challenge of maintaining the Greenway to the standards demanded throughout the E.U. is a demanding one. In particular a very small number of farm crossings are the subject of unfavourable comment due to the difficulties encountered in keeping them clean.
In recent years all newly developed comparable Greenways have been managed by the respective local authorities. CIÉ has current partnership arrangements with Kerry, Waterford and Westmeath County Councils in respect of disused/abandoned railways that remain in CIÉ ownership and are also in negotiation with Kilkenny and Wexford County Councils about new projects. In fact it is probable that the entire Irish Greenway network will become part of the remit of the new Transport Infrastructure Service [TIS] when that organisation takes over the responsibilities of the National Roads Authority and the Railway Procurement Agency.
In June the GST notified CIÉ and Limerick City & County Council (LCCC) of its intention to cease management of the Greenway and is confident that an arrangement will be forged between CIÉ and LCCC to ensure that the 40km of infrastructure in West Limerick will continue to be available to the public after November 7th. This is an amenity into which about €2 million has been invested by many State and local agencies including the GST Ltd. which has also contributed thousands of voluntary hours to the project.
The GST Ltd. will be happy to support any new management structure and to be represented on it. The GST will also assist in promoting the Greenway and its further extension along the old North Kerry railway to Tralee/Fenit and looks forward to a link also being provided from Limerick City westwards to the GST at Ballingrane/Rathkeale thereby providing an attractive 120km route from the city to the sea.
Phase 2 of the Tralee to Fenit Greenway / Great Southern Trail in Kerry opened late last week and we have posted a few photos of the new route below.
As to be expected there have been ‘issues’ which have prevented the section from the Big River to Rock Street from being completed, this are due to a delay in authorisation from Dunnes Stores for the lowering of the wall of the super market car park bounding the path. It is hoped that this should be resolved and this section of the route completed within the next few weeks.
A couple of interesting articles from over 25 years ago have appeared on the Down the Years section of The Kerryman newspaper recently, although the subject is Castleisland the similarities with the current situation with the Tralee – Fenit and the North Kerry line are uncanny:
A community that is crying out for a unused railway to be revitalised.
The land in question is state owned
A project that is part of the county development plan
Owners ( Irish Rail) who want to transfer the ownership to the local authority (Kerry Co Co)
And a local authority (Kerry Co Co) sitting on their hands !
RTE’s Nationwide did a feature on the village of Fenit recently, the show opened with a 5 minute segment on the Tralee to Fenit Railway / Greenway highlighting the benefits to both locals and tourist alike.
Even on a dull day Fenit and Tralee Bay looked great on the screen, case you missed it you can view the clip here:
Presenter Anne Cassin introduced the segment by talking about how many rural communities have been looking at new ideas in order to bring visitors to their areas, and that due to the runaway success of Mayo’s greenway, many have been looking to cycling and walking routes.
It is ironic that Anne spoke these words as she strolled along the the recently opened section of the Greenway in Tralee, as this was part of the the first planned Greenway in Ireland the Great Southern Trail, long before the Mayo Greenway was a glimmer in Mayo County Councils eye !
The development of the route was detailed in a report in the late ’80s compiled by Sustrans (who now manage the U.K. cycle network) and commissioned by Shannon Development which detailed the potential of developing a trail along the 80 km railway, the report makes for interesting reading , and had it being carried out would have certainty transformed North Kerry, and probably become the project held up as the exemplar Greenway in the country.
Looking back it is clear that we in Kerry were asleep at the wheel over the last 2 decades when it comes to developing facilities like these and while we did nothing other parts of the country who did have the vision and drive are now reaping the rewards. Westport is repeatedly voted in the top the class in both tourism awards and accolades for quality of life, in short business in booming and the locals are happy !
Of course tourism and the economy are not the be all and end all here, there are more more serious issues at hand. On the same week as this episode aired, Ireland was shocked by reports that showed that the country is on the road to becoming the most obese population in Europe, with diet and lack of exercise being the root causes.
So what do we want, if we do nothing then the weeds continue to grow, the litter accumulate, tourists go elsewhere and we risks our childrens heath due to them having nowhere safe to walk or cycle.
This Greenway will then become part of the EuroVelo1 Atlantic Coastal Route ( www.eurovelo.com/en/eurovelos ) which is being developed along all the coastal States from Portugal to Norway. The 40km Limerick section of the Great Southern Trail [GST] is also part of EuroVelo1 as is the Tralee Environs portion of the GST. The completed Limerick portion of the GST at present ends in open country at the Kerry Border and this situation has pertained since late 2012.
Following an initial public consultation process in 2013 Kerry County Council made an unsuccessful application for State funding to develop the 10km from the Limerick Border to Listowel in 2014. Since then they are in the process of acquiring the railway route from CIÉ and hope to have developed the 10km from the Limerick Border to Listowel by late 2016 if funding can be obtained.
It can be argued that this generous timeframe compares very unfavourably with achievements elsewhere in Ireland as exemplified by the Waterford example.
It is the view of the GST Ltd., who have led the Limerick development, that there should be a Greenway link all the way from Limerick City to Tralee/Fenit with maximum use being made of the dismantled railway.
Kerry County Council have been in the news recently regarding two controversial projects both of which involve the development of cycleways and compulsory purchase orders.
These are the South Kerry greenway in which KCC plan to buy back the railway in South Kerry (which was sold off after it was abandoned decades ago) and the other is the N86 development which also involves buying land for a widened road and a cycleway, ironically parts of this land was also once part the Tralee to Dingle Railway alignment.
So essential your tax money is going to buy back the two abandoned railways, which once were in state ownership, but no longer due to either been sold off or lost due to neglect.
At the same time there are two other railways in Kerry which are still in public ownership and lying idle, (the Tralee – Fenit and Tralee – Limerick) and which could easily be converted to greenways (as per the objectives of the county development)
Wouldn’t would be great to see these routes developed, wouldn’t this be much cheaper and in so better value for the taxpayer !
But maybe an Irish solution to this Irish problem is that we all sit on the fence for a few more years by which time we will have to buy back this land too ?
The Great Southern Trailmakes the Top Ten list in last weekends Sunday Business Post magazine. It highlight the wonderful facility in County Limerick as well as the fact that it is hoped to eventually stretch to Tralee, to meet up with the the the currently developed section.