Outdoor recreation has become increasingly popular as a means of social engagement, of enhancing physical and mental well-being, and of supporting tourism and rural economic development. The continued growth and potential of the sector is reflected in the level of investment in outdoor recreation infrastructure by Government Departments, State Agencies and Local Authorities in recent years.
However, the continued growth of the sector must be balanced with the sustainable use of our natural resources, the protection of our environment, and the rights of landowners who permit their lands to be used for recreational purposes.
As a group which is representative of all of the key stakeholders in outdoor recreation, Comhairle na Tuaithe has done much to support the sustainable development of the sector since 2004.
Given the continuing expansion of, and interest in, outdoor recreation in Ireland, I believe that it is important and timely to refresh the mandate of Comhairle na Tuaithe so that it can continue to play an important role in advising on the further development of outdoor recreation in a sustainable way as the sector grows and evolves.
On 6th June last, at its first meeting of 2019, I presented a new mandate to Comhairle na Tuaithe which will reinforce and strengthen its advisory role in relation to the sustainable development of the outdoor recreation sector in Ireland. At this meeting, I also announced the appointment of Dr. Liam Twomey as the new Chair of Comhairle.
The new mandate strengthens the role of Comhairle in advising me on the sustainable development of outdoor recreation, particularly in the open countryside. I have also asked Comhairle to identify opportunities to develop rural enterprises based on outdoor recreation activity, and to consider the scope for the development of a new National Strategy for Outdoor Recreation, taking account of recent developments and investments across the sector.
Comhairle will meet again under the chair of Dr. Twomey on 11th July, and I anticipate that the group will agree a work programme for the remainder of 2019 based on the new mandate which they have been given.