SIX years on, the Lough Lannagh loop walk in Castlebar has exceeded all expectations, and has fully justified the faith of the now defunct Town Council, whose members were at one in endorsing the lake’s recreational potential. Hundreds of Castlebar people - and many from further afield - of all shapes and sizes, take daily advantage of what is an urban parkland right in the middle of the town, with its native woodlands, wildflowers and birdsong and a stunning view across the lake to Croagh Patrick.
Whether by design or good fortune, so many pieces have come to fit together in the context of Lough Lannagh that it is now set to become even more central to a wider range of amenities and activities for the town and its people. Here, within a stone’s throw, is the ultra modern tennis facilities; work is rapidly progressing on the span new €8million swimming pool complex right adjacent to the lake; three all weather playing pitches are due to be developed in conjunction with the GMIT outdoor pursuits centre.
Meanwhile, on the lake itself, canoeing and kayaking have become everyday activities; the Dragon Boat vessel, for use by women cancer survivors, is a unique and welcome innovation; while after many years, the joys of angling have been rediscovered by a new generation of fishermen.
The icing on the cake, however, will come with the transformation of the Lough Lannagh gym into a world class centre for international boxing teams, offering training and residential facilities second to none in Europe. The first spark was struck three years ago when the then Ireland boxing head coach, Billy Walsh, brought four international teams - Ireland, Australia, Scotland and Poland - to Lough Lannagh for an intensive training camp prior to the World Boxing Championships.
That first experimental training camp was a great success. Lough Lannagh had everything which international teams could require - residential accommodation, full privacy, a first class gym, a ready-made training track, and a planned swimming pool. Urged on by people like boxing administrator Seán Horkan, Joe Hennigan of Ballina, a member of the national governing body, and Martin McLoughlinn, Chairman of the Castlebar club, the project was given the green light at top level, and now only awaits the completion of some procedural details to seal the deal.
One of these will see the relocation of Castlebar Boxing Club from its established location at the Mall to Lough Lannagh, there to become the anchor tenant of the new gym and the contact point for national and international teams.
And so Lough Lannagh, for long the hidden jewel of Castlebar, is set for a promising future. For many years, it had been a half neglected and undervalued amenity. Granted, it did boast of a diving board, built out onto the lake on a substantial concrete base - and often mistaken today for a jetty - where the town’s youngsters were taught to swim under the watchful eye of Mickey Guthrie, to whose memory a commemorative plaque has been erected at the water’s edge.
But it was the long delayed acquisition by the local authority of the lakeshore lands, and the erection of the picturesque footbridge across the narrow exit channel, that enabled the 2km loop walk to be completed, and to open up a new era for Lough Lannagh.
And if the sadly lamented Town Council has nothing else to be remembered for, the Lough Lannagh walk will always remain its finest success.