Michael Ring TD, Minister for Rural & Community Development, today announced funding of €10 million under the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme for 2020.
The funding is one element of a €30 million package of co-ordinated and complementary supports launched by the Minister this week as part of his Department’s Rural Development Investment Programme which is funded under Project Ireland 2040. The other elements of the package announced by the Minister this week were the €15 million Town and Village Renewal Scheme and the €5 million CLÁR Programme. Each scheme will play its role in the social and economic recovery of rural communities over the coming months, following the COVID-19 outbreak.
The Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme provides funding for the development of new and existing outdoor recreational infrastructure in rural areas. The Scheme is funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development in partnership with Fáilte Ireland.
In launching the 2020 scheme today, Minister Ring said :
“The Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme has been crucial to the development of the recreation facilities enjoyed by growing numbers of locals and tourists in rural areas in recent years. These facilities are now more important than ever in light of the COVID–19 emergency.
“The COVID situation has given people a renewed appreciation of the benefit of the outdoors to their wellbeing. More than ever, they value the outdoor recreation infrastructure in their local areas.
“We know that more people have been taking part in outdoor recreational activities since the COVID-19 restrictions became a part of our daily lives. An additional 500,000 regular recreational walkers took to the pavements, walks and trails during March and April 2020 compared to 12 months earlier. The same period also saw significant numbers of new runners and cyclists.
The walking trails, cycleways, mountain access routes and other facilities that the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme supports provide vital opportunities for people in rural areas to enjoy the outdoors in a safe environment.”
The Minister continued :
“These recreational facilities also have an important economic function. Funding for local greenways, blueways and walking trails will support activity tourism and the many thousands of local jobs which the sector provides.
“The natural resources available to us here in Ireland continue to offer great potential for activity tourism. Walking and cycling are amongst the main activities undertaken by both domestic and overseas tourists, and this trend is set to increase as the economy recovers.
“I am delighted that Fáilte Ireland has joined with my Department again this year to financially support the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure scheme. I have also increased the funding rate that will apply to projects approved under the scheme this year, from 80% to a maximum of 90%. This should ensure that the requirement on communities and other applicants to source match funding is kept to a minimum.”
Orla Carroll, Director of Product Development at Fáilte Ireland noted :
“This Scheme will lead to new and improved facilities for outdoor recreation and tourism activity across the country that will be enjoyed by locals and tourists alike. New walking and cycle trails and blueways will be key to helping the tourism industry throughout Ireland start to recover from the current COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis has seen many more people actively engage in outdoor recreation and our consumer research shows that this is expected to continue and grow further into the future.
“The Scheme will help to provide more recreational assets across rural Ireland for locals and visitors to enjoy active nature experiences. It will support better visitor management which will help address congestion and over-crowding at some of the most popular recreation locations.”
In conclusion, Minister Ring added :
“Outdoor recreation will continue to play an important role in supporting the physical, mental and economic wellbeing of rural communities over the coming years. My Department is committed to supporting the sector to maximise its potential and to ensure that it plays an important part in the social and economic recovery from COVID-19.
“I also gave a new mandate to Comhairle na Tuaithe (The Countryside Council) last year to advise on the development of the outdoor recreation sector and to promote the sustainable and responsible use of the outdoors.”