16 December 1015
By Elaine Murphy
Members of Cork County Council recently adopted Draft Trails for Tourism, a policy to maximise the economic benefit to the County which was drafted by members of the Tourism Strategic Policy Committee. Through the promotion of trails, the policy aims to support rural regeneration, economic development and tourism in a sustainable manner. The policy supports the linking of trails with existing attractions (heritage, historic, commemorative) with a focus on achieving the greatest economic benefit from the utilisation of existing routes.
Working through a partnership approach with other agencies while also coordinating with a number of existing different organisations, avoiding duplication and sharing responsibility, the focus is on maximizing the economic benefits of trails for tourism through a cooperative and collaborative approach from all stakeholders. Sharing information to assist the promotion of trails in conjunction with local community groups will be critical to success. Local community investment is key in this policy.
The policy gives priority to walking and cycling trails and highlights the benefits for a variety of groups. For local people, the trails offer opportunities for outdoor physical activity and the associated benefits of same. For rural communities, the trails can create opportunities to develop new and innovative rural tourism initiatives contributing to economic sustainability. Trails can be a very important niche tourism product, extending the tourism season. Trails also connect all of these end users and provide a forum for socialization and interaction.
It is intended to establish a County Trails Register which will build on the existing National Trails Office Register and detail not only the trails and their degree of difficulty but also associated amenities, such as places to stay, places to eat, visitor attractions, car parking, retail outlets, etc maximizing the economic benefits. The crucial element is in encouraging interaction between the trails and its environs.
It is considered that Cork is lacking in the promotion of its trails. The policy seeks to establish a single website that promotes walking and cycling for the entire County, a trail one stop shop. This unified brand will unite agencies in the promotion and marketing of the the activities available. Cork’s unique features, such as the vast coastal landscape, the proximity of city to country life together with linking into such initiatives as the Wild Atlantic Way and Ireland’s Ancient East are all products that can be built upon and attached to our trails. It is intended to pilot the actions set out in the policy on seven existing trails, including Sheep’s Head Way, Carrigaline/Crosshaven, A section of the Blackwater Way, Clonakilty Area Cycling experience, Ballincollig Gunpowder Trails, Ballyhoura Mountain Bikes Trails and Sli Gaeltacht Mhuscrai.