A Greenway vision realised – The Munster Express


It’s now 5 years for the reason that Waterford Greenway was formally opened – however the path to success wasn’t easy as members of the voluntary Déise Greenway Group know solely too properly .

Final week marked 5 years for the reason that official opening of the fantastic Waterford Greenway. Saturday March 25th 2017 was a wonderful day within the Déise as communities basked in lovely climate and the nice and cozy glow generated by the completion of this bold undertaking.

Kilmacthomas was the centre of exercise on the day and has been really reworked by the Waterford Greenway. As a neighborhood from Faha, I’m properly conscious of the immense work concerned in bringing the Greenway undertaking to fruition.

The Waterford Greenway has attracted vacationers from all through Eire and past.

Many obstacles needed to be surmounted to make this dream turn into a actuality. Whereas we are actually celebrating a landmark birthday for the undertaking, it’s price pausing to recollect these locals who labored diligently and quietly within the background to make sure Waterford obtained a world class vacationer attraction.

A farmer’s imaginative and prescient

Liam Connors was born and bred beside the Waterford Greenway at Adramone close to Lemybrien. He has farmed there ever since and the rail line has all the time held a particular place for him.

In January 2014, I wrote an article about Liam and his views entitled, ‘A Farmer’s Greenway Imaginative and prescient’ through which he spoke about rising up beside the railway. He outlined his assist for the event of a Greenway – one thing which might not have been the preferred opinion on the time, significantly amongst some within the farming neighborhood.

Within the article, Liam outlined his particular curiosity within the rail line. As an enthusiastic walker and bike owner who has travelled to many related routes worldwide, and as somebody who has been concerned with neighborhood initiatives over time, Liam was properly conscious of the constructive knock-on advantages which might come up from such a growth.

Liam Connors pictured on his farm in 2014.

I vividly recall Liam’s ardour and unwavering dedication to this undertaking on the time, however was additionally very a lot conscious that he was placing his head above the parapet by wholeheartedly backing the undertaking in such a public method.

“I admired the viaducts and tunnel and thought of these nice individuals who toiled within the 1870s making this railway and all those that labored on the railway line down by means of the years. Passing by means of locations in West Waterford, I seen the beautiful reduce stone bridges in the midst of fields and every thing bulldozed round them.  I didn’t need that to occur right here in Mid Waterford.  Pondering of the huge well being and leisure advantages it might give our communities and the tourism it might convey, I made a decision it was a no brainer to become involved.”

When the Déise Greenway Group shaped in 2013 and had been in search of volunteers, Liam knew {that a} farmer supporting the Greenway can be very helpful to the marketing campaign. Following the publication of ‘A Farmer’s Greenway Imaginative and prescient’ in The Munster Categorical, Liam had properly and really nailed his colors to the mast!

“The late John Fitzgerald, the then County IFA Chairman, rang me sooner or later and joked with me that I definitely had ‘put the cat among the many pigeons’,” says Liam.  “It was nice to have assist from such a real neighborhood man.  John gave me his assist regardless of it not being such a well-liked factor to assist in farming circles on the time however that’s the mark of the person that he was.”

Liam continues: “I used to be conscious that again in 2004 this very newspaper had an article in regards to the potential of the railway line changing into a walkway with Waterford County Council hoping to progress the event.  I obtained a letter from the Council in 2006 which was despatched to all landowners alongside the road however then nothing occurred.  It was as if it was simply left there.  I believed ‘who within the Council has duty for this and why has it not progressed?’  It was not till just a few years later I realized that an injunction was put in place round 2007/08 stopping any work on it.  This was introduced by 13 litigants who had been landowners adjoining the railway line.  That was it – one other 5 years glided by and nothing was performed. The dream was properly gone at this stage.”

An concept grows

The aforementioned Déise Greenway Group was instrumental in making certain the Greenway undertaking was put again on the agenda. Their formation in July 2013 was undoubtedly the catalyst for change which introduced the Greenway undertaking to the subsequent stage.

Liam cites one other Munster Categorical article from 2013 as being the spur for the formation of this group which sought to draw wider publicity for the thought of a Greenway. The article in query was an interview with Cllr Ger Barron (Labour) who was an advocate for the undertaking. I had spoken with Ger on the then overgrown Kilmacthomas Viaduct the place he reiterated his imaginative and prescient for the route.

“Ger, at a private value to him, had campaigned for a few years for the Greenway however the Déise Greenway Group determined to go a distinct route of marketing campaign to enhance what Ger had performed,” explains Liam. “I suppose I obtained concerned out of frustration that for the reason that letter I had obtained as a landowner in 2006, seven years later it appeared nothing had progressed. Motion of involved individuals was wanted.  Additionally, with the amalgamation of the 2 Councils in Waterford and the set up of Michael Walsh as CEO, it was well-known that he was a person of motion and that issues had been going to occur if he had a mandate from the Waterford public.”

Common conferences had been held and the group enlisted voluntary experience from totally different sectors.

“We had been fortunate to have a web site designer, a photographer, a authorized researcher and many others. and a farmer who occurred to be me and lots of extra with totally different skills,” explains Liam.  “All these skills and expertise created a really efficient stress group.  We performed a consensus primarily based marketing campaign and we solely bought the positives of a Greenway to the individuals of Waterford.  We by no means talked about the forces who had been objecting to stop what can be named ‘Eire’s Finest Customer Attraction’ by the Irish Unbiased.”

He continues: “Our principal technique of getting the message out was by means of many various types of media hitting totally different age teams.  We wrote quite a few newspaper articles for native media which additionally filtered into nationwide media. A number of the members had been on TV programmes equivalent to ‘Nationwide’ and quite a few journey programmes on nationwide TV – you couldn’t purchase this sort of publicity and publicity. We used social media massively and we met many political figures together with Taoisigh and Ministers. We contacted most Councillors throughout the county to get them on board as they might be voting on the Half VIII course of. We additionally did a marketing campaign encouraging individuals to make a submission supporting the Half VIII course of and this resulted in an unprecedented 600 submissions with 94 per cent in favour of the Greenway versus years earlier when the overwhelming majority of the one 50 submissions made had been unfavorable.”

Ger Barron pictured on the Kilmacthomas Viaduct in 2013.

Obstacles

One of many key goals the group recognized was the necessity to method enterprise homeowners who would finally profit massively from a future Greenway.  Nonetheless, this was not their most profitable enterprise.

“Lots of the companies in Dungarvan that we contacted initially had been reluctant to assist the marketing campaign as they felt many individuals can be towards it,” Liam explains. “Mockingly, the identical companies are actually benefitting massively.  However, two companies which actually went out of their method to assist our petition gathering initiative had been Brian Wickham of Cairbre Home and Paddy Morrissey of Cycle Sports activities.  There have been a pair extra however typically most didn’t need to become involved. Undeterred, we went a distinct route and arrange a petition to be signed by most people.”

The group didn’t need a web-based petition and favoured a petition which might permit them to satisfy individuals nose to nose and clarify the idea to individuals and get them to signal in the event that they agreed.

“We attended the Sean Kelly Tour registration days with as much as 50 individuals gathering signatures from 6am within the morning; the Surf and Sea Pageant in Tramore; hung out on Barronstrand Avenue within the Metropolis; and on the wonderful Path Run organised by Benji Whelan in Kilmacthomas so we obtained to the principle centres of inhabitants in Waterford,” explains Liam. “We even produced 400 t-shirts which we bought to fund the marketing campaign however typically we funded the marketing campaign out of our personal pockets and there was no assure it was going to succeed.  That sounds loopy now however, at the moment, we felt there was solely a 20 per cent probability that we would get the Council again on board and get settlement to get a Greenway constructed.”

Liam says the group’s members had been taking massive dangers because the Greenway was being introduced in sure quarters as “a kind of monstrosity that might convey untold injury to our communities”. The extreme opposition to the undertaking can clearly be seen in a report from a Waterford County Council assembly printed in The Munster Categorical in 2007.

Within the report, objectors chastised the Council saying: “disgrace on you and double disgrace on you for pretending that vacationers will come to view the fields and fences of Faha and Durrow from a railway line”.

Reflecting on this, Liam says: “The vacationers who’ve come from each county of Eire and additional afield clearly love the fields and fences of Faha and Durrow!”

He continues: “If it didn’t go forward, we might have been in some ways criticised in our communities as individuals who had been making an attempt to impose this ‘terrible factor’ on our communities, whereas these objecting to it might be heroes who stopped it.  However we ploughed forward to beat all these twists and turns for the nice of our communities and county.”

Assist

The shortage of unanimous assist from Waterford Council initially is maybe stunning given the common backing which the Greenway undertaking now seems to obtain.  Liam says it’s ironic that among the Councillors who initially opposed the undertaking have gone on to behave “as if they had been proponents”.

In distinction, he says there have been some councillors who, together with the aforementioned Ger Barron, passionately backed the undertaking and put their necks on the road.

“We had individuals like Tom Higgins who recalled attending a gathering at Crotty’s in Lemybrien which was attended by a big group of objectors,” says Liam. “Tom recalled how he stated to his spouse that they might sit close to to the again door in case they needed to make a fast escape.  Mary Greene, one other courageous lady, stood up for the Greenway towards a number of opposition in a rural space.  Damien Geoghegan was very actively supportive of the proposed Greenway manner earlier than the movement to proceed with it.  And there are just a few extra who had been supportive constantly however many who had been detached have now a brand new discovered curiosity within the Greenway…poacher turned sport keeper involves thoughts!”

As already talked about in relation to attracting assist for his or her petition, the Déise Greenway Group additionally encountered opposition elsewhere.

“In relation to the enterprise neighborhood in Dungarvan, we had been a bit disillusioned within the lack of assist for a undertaking which might profit them massively as has been confirmed over the previous 5 years,” states Liam. “Many gave the impression to be afraid to assist this controversial undertaking.  We decided to not proceed with making an attempt to get enterprise assist on board as I discussed already.  One other instance was a enterprise individual with a outstanding enterprise in Dungarvan who provided us a donation for our marketing campaign however couldn’t be seen to assist us publicly.  We didn’t take the donation.  In the meantime, one other outstanding tourism advocate appeared unable to see how a walkway/cycleway would convey vacationers to Dungarvan.  I might go on however I don’t need to sound unfavorable. Nonetheless, it definitely is humorous now trying again.  I approached one other group to ask for assist and whereas some members had been supportive, they felt they couldn’t give assist as an organisation. One member on the assembly declared that ‘it wouldn’t ever go forward because the farmers are towards it’ and right here was I, a farmer, making an attempt to get everybody on board to assist it.”

Liam explains that the Déise Greenway Group additionally approached a neighborhood sports activities membership to discreetly accumulate signatures of assist at considered one of their open occasions.

“They felt uncomfortable permitting us to try this as they felt it was too controversial,” he says. “However, and I say this in jest, the tarmac was barely gone chilly on the Greenway when their members had been out coaching on it.  We had felt if we obtained the assist of golf equipment concerned in well being and wellbeing, it might be nice nevertheless it wasn’t to be at the moment.”

Members of the Déise Greenway Group gathering signatures in Kilmacthomas in 2013. Included are Mayors John Cummins and Damien Geoghegan.

Success

Wanting again, Liam is heartened by what has been achieved regardless of all the obstacles which the Déise Greenway Group encountered.

“Kilmacthomas is a brand new village stuffed with color, vibrancy and positivity.  Dungarvan is blooming and thronged in the course of the summer time with the hospitality institutions flying and a Mediterranean really feel within the evenings down on the Quay and in Grattan Sq..  The Waterford Suir Valley Railway has upped it figures significantly because the Greenway has made individuals much more conscious of the railway there.  Mount Congreve has obtained a facelift and is because of reopen this 12 months with document numbers.  Locations such because the Workhouse and the Railway Cottage have introduced new vibrancy to areas outdoors the villages and cities and when the hyperlink into town and the connection to New Ross are accomplished, town will get the profit loved by the areas in Mid and West Waterford.  It’s all good.  Lodging suppliers and bike rent operators and different actions are buzzing.  I even discover some companies are calling their companies after the Greenway and are actually shopping for into it. The well being advantages are large.  However probably the most spectacular facet is that the cities and villages on the Greenway are a part of the large Greenway neighborhood.”

He compliments Council CEO Michael Walsh and his crew on delivering this undertaking for Waterford.

“Michael Walsh determined it might be constructed ‘come hell or excessive water’ and he has delivered.  We had been so fortunate to have Tom Rogers in Waterford County Council on the time.  He delivered on the Smarter Journey Scheme whereby he beat off a number of entries from cities all through the nation to get Dungarvan chosen as considered one of three cities to be awarded €7 million over ten years in the past for Smarter Journey which led to Dungarvan to changing into a really bike owner pleasant city with cycle tracks on the approaches to Dungarvan years earlier than anybody else.  He drove the Greenway initially to a degree the place there was no stopping and led to the supply of the Greenway.  He obtained the Division Officers down, bought them the Greenway and obtained the preliminary grants to get it going.  This man must be recognised.  Waterford’s loss is Cork Council’s achieve.  A lesson to be realized for any organisation or society as a complete is that it is best to all the time be grateful of expertise and excellence when you have got it.”

He believes one other priceless lesson to be realized is that these in authority, equivalent to Councils, needs to be appreciative of voluntary teams who “get the ball rolling and provides the Council a mandate to proceed”.

“This could positively encourage others sooner or later to do the identical,” says Liam.

Volunteerism

Whereas all are heartened by the success of the Greenway, there stays a tangible sense of disappointment at how members of this neighborhood marketing campaign group have been handled.

“Many companies in Dungarvan and Kilmacthomas and others locations have benefitted massively.  They create an important buzz and employment however it might be good in the event that they had been appreciative of the most important efforts that volunteers put in to get the Greenway going,” says Liam. “Eaten bread is quickly forgotten. However our purpose as volunteers was to get a Greenway throughout the road and that was achieved.”

He provides: “We now have Councils, journalists and Greenway campaigners from everywhere in the nation contacting us for recommendation and asking us to talk to their teams – however I’m unsure if our personal Council recognize what now we have performed. We’re stored properly away when the plaudits are being thrown round.  On the day of the opening in Kilmacthomas, the few of us who obtained invitations needed to stroll previous among the objectors within the VIP seats on our method to stand within the automobile park and the Tánaiste and Mayor spoke and there wasn’t one point out of us. You’ll swear in some quarters that the previous objectors paved the trail for the Greenway and constructed it such is the reward they get.  I typically surprise if being an objector provides yet another leverage to get a greater deal than being a supporter.  However we’re so joyful that our purpose of a Greenway has been delivered for our communities and county and that we had some small half in it regardless of the ‘selective amnesia’ of the authorities and a few native Councillors.”

The truth that each a part of the nation now desires a Greenway is definitely testomony to the arduous work of the Déise Greenway Group. All the volunteers concerned with this group are owed an infinite quantity of gratitude for making certain Waterford obtained an amenity which is the envy of all.

*The above are the private opinions of Liam Connors





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