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Farmers to object to walkway

Farmers to object to walkway

Anton McNulty

A PROPOSED new walking route, which would connect Achill with existing walkways in Mayo, is likely to face fierce opposition from farmers on the island unless a compromise over the use of commonage is agreed.
The walkway, which will be known as ‘Slí Acla’,  is being developed by Achill Tourism and Comhlacht Forbartha Áitiuil Acla and will go from Dooagh through to Mulranny, linking up with the Western Way via Newport. The proposed walkway will trek across the old railway line to Achill, pass through the Coillte forest to Belfarsad before going onto the island and passing over the Minaun Heights and along the Keel Sanybanks to Dooagh.
Achill Tourism and CFÁA have worked in partnership with Mayo County Council and Údaras na Gaeltachta for over a year on the project and a public meeting to discuss the proposed route has been organised. If there are no problems, it is believed the walkway will be open for next summer.
However, farmers on the island are believed to be unhappy with the walkway as they are responsible for the upkeep of the commonage and the trust between the Achill farmers and the Council has broken down. Mr Tom Fadian of Achill IFA told The Mayo News that the Council still have a vesting order on Keel Sandybanks and called for it to be dropped as a goodwill gesture.
“The Achill IFA are in regular contact with Achill Tourism but Mayo County Council are a long way off understanding the ownership of the landowner. The Keel Sandybanks is an issue that has never been resolved and there is still a vesting order on the Sandybanks. I would say to the Council as a gesture of goodwill to remove that vesting order. The trust has broken down and the fear is the land will be taken off the farmers,” said Mr Fadian.
He said the walkway will only go ahead with the backing of the farmers and if the farmers were treated fairly they would be in favour of the walkway.
Mr Stephen Corrigan of Achill Tourism told The Mayo News the majority of the proposed route will be going through commonage and said he hoped to have the route marked on maps and on the internet by next summer. He said if there were any concerns among farmers or other parties they should bring them up at the public meeting and try and resolve them.
Mayo County Council hopes to make Mayo the walking capital of Ireland and will be producing a draft walking strategy for the county in December. Mr Declan Turnbull, a Community and Enterprise Officer with the Council, said the Council is were getting positive feedback from communities and hoped to bring many pathways to national standards.
“There is very little damage done to the land as walkers are very conscious of what they are doing. Fáilte Ireland and Ireland West Tourism are saying it is an expanding area and there are more tourists coming in walking. That is why they want them developed, marketed and marked and that is what our strategy will be discussing,” explained Mr Turnbull.