So, what is a Greenway, and why have one in Monaghan?
There are Greenways all over the world, including the USA and throughout Europe. Often Greenways are developed along old transport routes such as disused railways, roads or canals, which are then transformed into new, more sustainable pathway, primarily for walking and cycling.
For the most part Greenways are segregated from road traffic, however it is important that Greenways are well connected to residential areas, schools and businesses, so they may connect in to cyclepaths (typically footpaths which can be used by cyclists) or cyclelanes (cycling facilities located on road and adjacent to traffic).
Recognising the benefits of Greenways for health, recreation, sustainable transport and tourism, more and more countries are developing strategies to promote their development and use. In Ireland, the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport published the ‘Strategy for the Future Development of National and Regional Greenways’ in July 2018. A programme of funding for Greenways will be made available, and Monaghan County Council is developing projects that may be suitable for funding.
Recreational routes and trails are developing on a more piecemeal basis. Generally these can follow historic rights of way, and the quality and accessibility of these routes can vary greatly. Recreational routes and trails are important in connecting facilities throughout our countryside and for providing access to more difficult to reach areas. By thinking strategically and planning ahead we can connect Greenways and trails to provide a rich network of routes for walking and cycling across County Monaghan and beyond.
To be fit and healthy we need to be physically active. Regular physical activity – particularly cycling and walking – can protect people from diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, mental illness, diabetes and arthritis. In particular, regularly riding a bicycle is one of the best ways to reduce the risk of health problems associated with a sedentary lifestyle.
The National Physical Activity Plan for Ireland – Get Ireland Active, states “physical inactivity is a demonstrated clear risk to health and wellbeing in Ireland. Physical inactivity and sedentary behaviours are associated with numerous chronic diseases. With people no longer as physically active as they should be, there are many threats to our health and wellbeing from being inactive”.
Greenways provide an excellent opportunity for Irish people to participate in a healthy outdoor activity. Evidence from the Waterford Greenway has shown that 50% of users are walkers, this is a hugely important element and shows that Greenways can play a vital part in addressing physical inactivity.
Walking and cycling are low-impact activities that are family-friendly and can be suitable for all levels of fitness. The benefits of exercise for positive mental health and well-being is widely recognised. The Monaghan County Local Economic and Community Plan 2016 – 2021 identifies the ‘promotion of health and well being of all people in Monaghan by ensuring equal opportunity to access, participate and engage in the social, economic, cultural, sporting and educational opportunities in the County’ as a high level goal. Greenways provide safe and attractive walking and cycling routes accessible to all.
Ireland is obliged to meet European targets around sustainable transport, and the Dept of Transport sees both an everyday and a tourism benefit to Greenways.
The provision of safe, off-road walking and cycling paths have been identified as being a key necessity before any intervention aimed at encouraging people to ‘ditch the car’ in favour of more sustainable transportation modes can be achieved. As such, the development of Greenways is an integral part of the Dept’s Smarter Travel programme.
You can find out more about our Active Travel Town programme at http://www.gomonaghan.ie.
The success of the Waterford and the Great Western (Westport-Achill0 Greenways are testament to the tourism potential and economic benefit Greenways can bring to an area. They attract visitors of all ages, offering a relaxed and safe means for people to explore the local countryside. Greenways can bring visitors to areas less travelled, and with them ancillary businesses such as guesthouses, B&Bs and glamping, and hospitality, crafts and heritage enterprises can develop.
In 2006 Failte Ireland commissioned a ‘scoping study’, which analysed the tourism offering north and south and drew up a map of preferred long distance cycling routes, called the National Cycle Network. One of the proposed routes runs from Sligo through Cavan, Clones, Monaghan and on to Dundalk.
Co. Monaghan is well established as an ‘activity and adventure’ destination, with outdoor activities such as horse riding, angling, walking and cycling being strong attractors of visitors. The Greenway enhances these tourism offerings. And who knows what delights the enterprising people of Monaghan will develop along the route in the years to come!
Developing Greenways along disused transport corridors is an ideal way of opening up the countryside for more people to enjoy. One of the principles of Greenways is to conserve the natural environment wherever possible, and because Greenway construction can be low-impact, existing habitats can be preserved and even enhanced.
Greenways being environmental benefits too. If more people start using Greenways for everyday journeys, greenhouse gas emissions will reduce. Cycling 10 km each way to work would save 1500 kg of greenhouse gas emissions each year.
Greenways in Ireland
The network of Greenways in Ireland is constantly growing, and with an investment programme announced by the Department of Transport Tourism and Sport in 2018, the length of Greenways will continue to grow. Sport Ireland is the review and assessment body who certify Greenways and other walking and cycling trails. These trails are mapped on the www.irishtrails.ie website, and an App is available to download which can be used to identify walking and cycling trails near you.