Speaking after the launch of ‘Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors – National Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2023-2027’, IFA Hill Farming Chairman Caillin Conneely said it’s a positive first step in addressing concerns of landowners surrounding access to land for recreational use.
“Recreational activities can bring huge economic benefits for rural communities. However, the role of the landowner should not be diminished compared to those accessing private land for recreational use. Without private landowners’ consent, users would not be able to access these spaces for recreational use,” he said.
The National Outdoor Recreation Strategy (NORS) aims to provide an overarching framework for the growth and development of outdoor recreation in Ireland.
The Strategy (read in full here) has been developed by Comhairle na Tuaithe, on which IFA participate, in conjunction with the Department of Rural & Community Development.
In a meeting with IFA, Minister for Rural & Community Development Heather Humphreys announced plans to further expand the Walks Scheme to 150 trails. This target is set out in the strategy, with an expected completion date of Q4 2024. No funding has yet been outlined to facilitate the expansion.
The Chairman said “The current Walks Scheme, which has been in existence for nearly 14 years, has proved very successful in developing tourism in peripheral and other rural areas throughout the country. The expansion of the scheme will be a valuable support to farmers in the creation of walking routes and provide a significant boost to farm incomes for those participating.”
As part of an extension secured by IFA in Budget 2022, the Walks Scheme was previously expanded to 80 trails following the addition of 31 new trails. This would bring the total number of farmers and landowners involved in the scheme to 2,400.
“There are 52 trails out of 80 up and running on the Walks Scheme, with workplans currently being developed for more. IFA is insisting that the previous commitment to extend the Walks Scheme to 80 must be delivered without further delay,” he said.