Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Questions (57, 61)

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

57. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development when he plans to reopen the rural walks scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51860/18]

View answer

Aindrias Moynihan

Question:

61. Deputy Aindrias Moynihan asked the Minister for Rural and Community Development the progress which has been made towards reopening the rural walks scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51859/18]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Rural)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 61 together.

My Department administers the Walks Scheme which facilitates the development and maintenance of many of Ireland’s walking trails. The scheme involves private land-holders as key participants in the provision of high quality walking trails, by contracting them to undertake maintenance work on sections of National Waymarked Ways and other priority walks that cross their lands. Participant land-holders receive modest payments for maintenance work undertaken, in line with agreed work plans.

The scheme currently covers 39 trails, with payments made to approximately 1,900 private land-holders to maintain those trails.

The Programme for a Partnership Government includes a commitment to increase the number of walks covered by the scheme. In line with this commitment, funding for the scheme was doubled in Budget 2019 - from €2 million to 4 million - to allow this expansion to proceed next year.

I will shortly be initiating a review of the operation of Walks Scheme which will inform decisions regarding the expansion of the scheme. In order to be in a position to bring new trails on to the scheme as soon as possible, I will also be inviting Local Development Companies and Local Authorities to submit expressions of interest in respect of trails that meet specific qualifying criteria, for consideration for inclusion in the scheme.

I hope that this process will enable my Department to identify, in the coming weeks, the initial trails for inclusion in the expanded scheme, with additional walks to join the Scheme on an incremental basis.