One of the biggest innovations in Irish tourism in recent times has been the creation of the Greenways along disused railway lines. They have worked in Mayo, Westmeath and Waterford bringing serious economic benefit to these areas.
That is the reason and the logic supporters of the proposed Blueway along the River Barrow advance in supporting the development. It is a compelling argument when you see the success of the Greenways elsewhere. Yet this planning application has seen the highest ever number of planning objections lodged with Carlow County Council. Hundreds of people have attended public meetings in opposition to the development.
How can a project with such potential be a source of so much concern? I imagine everybody living along the Barrow corridor would favour a stronger local economy with the potential for more jobs and prosperity but instead they are mobilised and agitating against this proposal.
In his brilliant book, ‘The Wisdom of Crowds” James Surowiecki espoused the theory of collective wisdom and that it should not be dismissed too easily. I feel the same principle should apply in the decision of the planners in this case. It should not be swayed by the body of experts who have been employed to promote this project. Local knowledge must be central to the decision making process.
One question that has to be asked is why has the old disused railway between Bagenalstown and Pallas East not been considered for development as a Greenway just as the aforementioned railway lines in other parts of the country? It could link up with the Waterford Greenway as part of a national route just as the Blueway is to be part of that trail infrastructure.
One of my concerns is that our public representatives do not understand the disastrous consequences should this proposed development fail and they have not familiarised themselves sufficiently with the differences between the proposed Blueway and the Greenways around the country. They are like chalk and cheese.
Lets assume the proposal gets the go ahead.
The grass bank will be removed.
Trees and hedging will be removed.
A hard grit like surface will I understand be installed.
The Barrow will continue to flood on multiple occasions annually.
Will we now have 140kms of this potholed surface instead of a grassy bank:
If my fears are misplaced and Waterways Ireland can provide a trail that meets all our needs then of course it would be an amazing route. Unfortunately they have not yet, as far as I know, provided detail on how this surface will be maintained in the future. users of the Barrow Track are all too well aware that WWI struggle to fund the maintenance of the current surface – surely this will be an even bigger cost?
Constant flooding washes away these grit surfaces – causing pollution problems in the River itself.. and with climate change the extent of the flooding has been getting worse and will get even more challenging in decades ahead…