International Appalachian Walking Trail to Reach Mid Ulster
A total of £28,413 in funding has been secured to carry out improvements to 9 miles of walking trail in Mid Ulster as part of a cross border cooperation project within the Rural Development Programme to enhance the development of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT).
The project was developed by Mid Ulster Rural Development Partnership, the LEADER Local Action Group and Mid Ulster District Council as part of a wider LAG Co-operation initiative to improve access and awareness on IAT route. The focus of the funding package will concentrate on the section in Mid Ulster which runs from Glenelly Road over Crockbrack Hill, Crockmore, through Moneyneany and into Moydamlaght Forest.
Works are due to start this month and include the installation of IAT branded interpretation, upgraded directional way-markers, furniture and counters along the nine-mile stretch of walking trail, as well as a joint marketing initiative between all six partners.
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Cathal Mallaghan welcomed the investment, saying:
“This project supported by Mid Ulster District Council, provides a great opportunity for Mid Ulster to be part of a unique international walking trail. The aims of the International Appalachian Trail echo Council priorities to promote our natural and cultural heritage, improve the health and well-being of our population, contribute to cross border cooperation and, vitally for our District, boost rural economic development through eco and geo tourism.
“The development of the new section of trail will further open the Sperrins to an international market and maximise the use and the potential of existing walking trails such as Hudy’s Way and Moydamlaght, by adding value to the existing walks and helping to entice visitors to stay in the local area for longer.”
Commenting on the project Conor Corr, Chairperson of Mid Ulster Rural Development Partnership said “Local Action Group (LAG) Co-operation forms an important part of the LEADER Local Rural Development Strategy for Mid Ulster. It provides the opportunity for joint working between LAGs in different areas needed to develop innovative initiatives such as the International Appalachian Trail project. Our LAG Board members have been working closely with Mid Ulster District Council during the development phase of this project to bring a good local working knowledge of the area to the table which will continue throughout the implementation stage as well”.
Continuing, Mr Corr said “Funding for this project has been secured under Priority 6 of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Union. It has also been match funded by Mid Ulster District Council and through this partnership approach we hope to see the delivery of a successful project which will boost the tourism offering within the District.
Paul Wylezol, Co-Chair of the International Appalachian Trail based in Canada said “The Ulster Ireland section will be an inspiring addition to the International Appalachian Trail story and the commencement of works on the Mid Ulster section of the walking trail is a significant milestone.
“With shared geological and cultural storylines, combined with uniquely Irish attractions, the developed Ulster Ireland section has great potential to attract a wide variety of North American walkers, from eco, geo and adventure tourists to fans of the well-known Game of Thrones television series.”
The Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-20 is part funded by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and the European Union. The funding is administered by Mid Ulster District Council LAG.
The International Appalachian Trail is one of the largest trail networks in the world with route legs in a range of countries including the United States, Canada and throughout Europe. The Irish section of the International Appalachian Trail is approximately 302miles/485km in length and runs from west Donegal to Larne passing through six council areas. It starts at the spectacular Slieve League cliffs, passes through Glencolmcille, traverses the Bluestack Mountains in Co Donegal before crossing into Co. Tyrone. Here it picks up the Ulster Way, taking in the Sperrins, the stunning North Coast and the Glens of Antrim.
As well improvements to the Mid Ulster section of the trail, five other councils will be making improvements to their own sections as part of works costing over £600,000. The widespread investment is the result of a collaborative effort by each council area, working together to ensure the overall visitor experience is improved across the entire trail for both locals and tourists. By enhancing the visitor experience on the trail, the improvements will have the potential to attract more domestic and international visitors and therefore generate substantial economic benefit for the businesses along the route and the wider area.
As part of the effort to attract more local national and international visitors, there is also significant investment being directed towards a project to promote the trail, worth almost £120,000 in value. Marketing campaigns in Ireland and North America will be executed by Outdoor Recreation NI, an organisation with extensive experience in promoting walking trails to locals and tourists, towards the end of 2021.
The project is supported by Donegal Local Community Development Committee, Donegal Local Development CLG, Donegal County Council and the Department of Rural & Community Development through grant aid received under The European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development in Ireland 2014- 2020 “Europe investing in rural areas”.
Moydamlaght Forest, soon to benefit as part of the improvements to 9 miles of walking trail in Mid Ulster happening during a cross border cooperation project within the Rural Development Programme to enhance the development of the International Appalachian Trail (IAT).