The Walks Scheme currently covers 39 trails, with payments made to approximately 1,960 private land-holders to maintain those trails.
No new walks had been taken onto the scheme since 2010. However, 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.
In February of this year, I invited Expressions of Interest from Local Authorities and Local Development Companies for inclusion in the scheme of additional trails that meet specific qualifying criteria.
Interested trail management committees, community groups and other relevant bodies were invited to make contact with their Local Authority or Local Development Company to commence the process. To date, 14 Local Development Companies have submitted 46 Expressions of Interest to my Department.
Based on these submissions, I hope to be in a position to announce the first tranche of trails to be added to the scheme by the end of the summer.
There is no closing date for Expressions of Interest at this time, and interested parties can continue submit proposals for additional trails to be included in the Walks Scheme through their Local Authority or Local Development Company.