Concern that coronavirus will threaten ambitious plans for Cork greenways 

Concern that coronavirus will threaten ambitious plans for Cork greenways 
A view of the proposed greenway upgrade including the reinstated railway bridge and access ramp.

Cork’s proposed greenways in both the city and the county would make for key recreational and tourism amenities, as well as providing walking, running, and cycling routes for locals — but the current Covid-19 pandemic could threaten the development of some.

Proposed greenways across Cork include the Midleton to Youghal Greenway, the Lee to Sea Greenway, and the West Cork Greenway.

Ground had already been broken on the Midleton to Youghal Greenway, which was in Stage One of development before the outbreak.

The rail line from Midleton to Youghal is set to become a greenway for walkers and cyclists.
The rail line from Midleton to Youghal is set to become a greenway for walkers and cyclists.

It had been estimated that the greenway would generate €11.6m per year in revenue for the local economy once it was fully operational.

The €15m project is co-funded by Cork County Council and the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

Fianna Fáil Cork East TD James O’Connor said that he is hopeful that the current Covid-19 pandemic will not cause too much of a delay in the project’s development.

“The department won’t be withdrawing their funding, from my understanding. I would be very hopeful that the local authority would keep up their side. There is a risk to other projects around the country that could be impacted by this. I would be sincerely hopeful that it wouldn’t be the case.

“We’re very much at the mercy of what the European Central Bank will be deciding in terms of their monetary policy to respond to the Covid-19 crisis. we don’t know what that looks like yet in its totality, and we hope to get a clear picture on that toward the end of the summer,” he said.

The Lee to Sea Greenway’s proposed route would connect Inniscarra and Crosshaven to the bustling city centre, incorporating some of the walkways already in existence.

The route, beginning at Inniscarra, would travel the entire way down the River Lee, into the city centre and along its historic quays and along the coast to Cork Harbour.

The Lee to Sea Greenway would serve a large population of about 200,000 people who live within minutes of the proposed route which passes many of the city’s hotels and B&Bs, colleges, business parks, and major employers, providing them with a local open-air amenity.

However, the Covid-19 virus has put a spanner in the works, and there are concerns over funding for that project.

Cork City South-East councillor Kieran McCarthy (Independent), who has been championing the proposal of the Lee to Sea Greenway, said he fears that next year’s budget could be “fairly horrific”, given the current pandemic.

Cork City Council is reviewing this year’s budget, and Mr McCarthy believes that proposed projects may be put to one side.

“There’s going to be a decrease in rates coming in, and I’ve no doubt that the Government will have to tighten their belts so there won’t be as many grants for big projects such as big cycleways,” he said.

“The Coca Cola bikes would be ideal for the Lee to Sea scheme — but the thing is that the money for that was coming from Dublin, Cork City Council doesn’t have a budget line for local cycling infrastructure, we just can’t afford it.”

He said that the council had been doing “quite well” with this year’s budget and it was hopeful for next year’s budget, but that the current situation has changed that outlook.

Another figurehead involved in the Lee to Sea scheme, Cork City North-East Councillor Oliver Moran (Green Party) argued that greenways and public parks remain open under Government guidelines because they are deemed as essential services.

A map of the proposed Youghal greenway.
A map of the proposed Youghal greenway.

“Amenities like this are not non-essential — the parks and the greenways are still open because they are essential services for people and if there’s any good to come out of Covid-19, at least it has shown us the things that really are important, and one of those is access to open-air amenities,” he said.

Mr Moran also highlighted the accessibility that the new city centre to Little Island greenway would provide for commuters to one of the country’s largest business districts, which is notorious for rush-hour traffic congestion. Work on the Glanmire section of the greenway, which will link Kent Station to Little Island, had been proposed to begin in September of this year.

In West Cork, funding for the proposed route connecting the old West Cork railway line network from the city out to Courtmacsherry, Bantry, and Baltimore could be an issue, but advocate for the greenway, Cork South West TD Christopher O’Sullivan (Fianna Fáil) said that the project should be prioritised.

“There’s no doubt there’s going to be funding challenges, but if Covid-19 has taught us anything, it’s that fitness and the provision of amenities has to be vital in the next programme for the new government.”

He said that the already-completed 5km stretch of greenway from Clonakilty to the Technology Park has proved a “monumental success”, allowing walkers and cyclists to commute safely to and from work and has been a “saviour” for people within a 2km radius of it to escape to during the current pandemic.

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