The scheme referred to by the Deputy involves landholders 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 traverse their lands. Participant landholders 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 landholders to maintain those trails. Payments are based on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine’s "Own Labour Rate". In line with this rate, my Department has increased the amount payable to participants from €12.40 per hour to €13.50 per hour from 1 January this year. This increase will be reflected in payments made to participants this year.
The maximum amount payable to any participant is 200 hours, or €2,700. In 2018, the average payment to participants on the scheme was €938. The cost of payments to participants on an annual basis is in the region of €2 million. A further €600,000 is paid to Local Development Companies to cover the cost of administering the scheme and the salaries of Rural Recreation Officers who oversee the scheme.