May earmarked for Slieve Bloom Bike Trail opening

Thursday, 18 January 2018

A NUMBER of tenders have been received, which the County Council are considering, and May has been earmarked for the opening of the new mountain bike trail in the Slieve Bloom Mountains.

Cllr John Clendennen told the Midland Tribune that the first stage of the Bike Trail project will open in May and will entail 35 kilometres of trail starting in Kinnitty. €1.5 million has been granted for this stage. 

It's hoped that more funding will be granted for the second stage, which will entail creating another bike trail from the Delour Valley in the Laois side of the range.

Cllr Clendennen said the project is being run by Coillte, with assistance from the County Councils. He also welcomed the announced of €200,000 in funding for the creation of another section of the Grand Canal Greenway between Tullamore and Lough Boora.

 He said the Slieve Bloom bike trails will be a game changer for the region, as they had been for the Ballyhoura region in Limerick. "We would like to see the trail from Kinnitty eventually connected to the trail from Delour," he commented. "I think we need an overall plan for the range which would look at improving the roads in the hills and clearing some of the blocked waterways."

The councillor pointed out that the majority of users of the new bike trails will probably be Irish. "We need to look at ways of attracting more foreign tourists to the Slieve Blooms and to Offaly."

The bike trails will eventually be 70 to 100 kilometres in length, costing €4 million to €5 million to construct, and could attract up to 40,000  to 50,000 visitors. A few months ago the Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said this is a very important project for Laois-Offaly which will "yield jobs and tourist revenue." He acknowledged the commitment of Coillte and Laois and Offaly County Councils, who granted permission for the mountain bike trails in March.

 The idea of creating bike trails in the Slieve Blooms was first conceived about ten years ago. Local people have therefore been waiting a long time to see the idea come to fruition and many people are eagerly awaiting its opening.

The Minister for Tourism wants to see more recreational cycling and walking routes laid out across Ireland. "The Council is very serious," said Cllr Clendennen, "about creating cycling and walking routes throughout the county because we have seen the dividends, the benefits which Greenways bring to a region."

There will be two trailheads in the Slieve Blooms, one at Kinnitty, the other at Baunreagh in the Delour Valley. Visitor facilities will include an information point, toilets, showers, a café, and car parking to be provided at or near both trailheads.

At the Baunreagh trailhead it's planned to create a café in an outhouse which formerly belonged to Baunreagh House, and to clear the adjacent Delour River of the trees, bushes and rhododendrons which are heavily blocking it. These visitor facilities will also provide a focal point for walkers and hikers exploring the Slieve Bloom range. 


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