I propose to take Questions Nos. 384 and 385 together.
I am aware that the issue of erosion, as a consequence of the growing popularity of outdoor activities including hill walking, is of increasing concern. My Department oversees the implementation of the National Countryside Recreation Strategy (NCRS) which aims to ensure sustainable and responsible recreational use in the countryside.
Measures to address erosion include the Walks Scheme which represents an innovative response to facilitating the development and maintenance of many of Ireland’s key walking trails. The main point of the Scheme is that it brings in the landholders as key participants in the provision of high quality walking trails, by contracting them to undertake maintenance work on the trails in line with agreed work plans. The Walks Scheme is currently operating on 39 trails supported by over 1,800 landowners and is being managed by 16 Local Development Companies around the country.
A pilot Mountain Access Scheme is currently being implemented at Mount Gable in Connemara and a more extensive scheme is being developed for Carrauntuohill and the MacGillicuddy Reeks in Co. Kerry. These pilot Mountain Access projects are being progressed with a view to developing best practice in relation to sustainable trails and walking routes in the uplands. A focus of these pilots will be the management and repair of erosion and other negative consequences arising from increased activity in sensitive landscapes.
Restrictions on the use of bikes, motorbikes, quads etc are generally a matter for the landowner. Where trails cross State lands, this is a matter for the individual State Agencies to manage through byelaws and subsequent enforcement. In areas designated as Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas or Natural Heritage Areas, I understand that use of quads, scramblers and other motor vehicles is generally proscribed by the National Parks and Wildlife Services.