TWO roads diverge into a wood. One goes to Rathkeale and the other to Abbeyfeale and if Liam O’Mahony had known the road that was ahead of him in trying to bring the Greenway to Newcastle West, he might have taken some other route entirely.
He was one of the original committee that campaigned to have a dedicated cycling and walking route for Newcastle West.
“There was huge opposition in the beginning,” said Liam, remembering how every tactic possible was used to halt the plan to turn the old railway line into a cycling and walking route, from spreading slurry to erecting physical barriers.
But now the train tracks are gone and the Greenway is increasingly becoming a draw for tourists and locals alike and bringing money into the town.
Currently a 40 km route with an additional 17 km of loops, the Greenway will be 50 km long when the Kilmorna stretch is opened.
Thousands of people come to Newcastle West to enjoy both the Greenway and the loops and the route is now part of the Euro Velo 1 association of cycle ways.
“The Euro Velo people came to Adare last year for their bi-annual conference and they were very impressed with the greenway.
“Irish people are the ones who are using it most but there are more people coming from Europe and further afield all the time,” said Liam.
The problems with objections faded away after ESAT came on board to use the old railway route to run their fibre optic cables in 1999.
Three years ago, the management of the route was handed over to Limerick City and County council and they have been responsible since.
Liam is still involved and wants to see work continue to promote the route, including more signage and marketing.
He also welcomed Limerick City and County Council’s plans to extend the UL greenway to Montpelier and Castleconnell with Rural Development Funds.
He is adamant that some way must be found to close the gap between Limerick city and Rathkeale.
“While Limerick city is linked by a cycle path to Patrickswell, there still remains a gap between Patrickswell and Rathkeale,” he said.
“The most practical way to achieve this, is to provide a path alongside the railway line from Patrickswell to Rathkeale via Ballingrane. This could be done in conjunction with restoring the Limerick to Foynes rail link, he said, or along the line itself if the rail link was closed.
However, he believes that temporary route for cyclists along rural roads could be put in place in the meantime and he urged the council to re-examine this option, the case for which was previously put to them by the Great Southern Trail Group.
He has every support from Jim Barrett of West Limerick Tourism who is also in the business of renting bikes to people who want to hire them to cycle the route.
“We’re very lucky to have the Greenway and we’re blessed with the heritage we have in the area,” he told the Limerick Post.
The aim of West Limerick Tourism is to have Newcastle West on the map as much more than a town on the road to Kerry.
“We don’t want to be just a base for people. We want to be a destination,” he said. “There’s enough to do here to keep people busy for a ten-day holiday”.
The tourism body works with Ballyhoura Failte, Failte Ireland and West Limerick Resources and Heritage to keep the welcome flame lit.
They promote the area on-line at visitwestlimerick.com. and through social media.
“Positivity is our fuel. There’s a lot of co-operation between the various bodies and it pays off. I hire bikes for the Greenway and anywhere else people want to cycle. Someone hires a bike for 15 euros, well that’s another 15 euros they’ll spend to have meal along the route and they need a place to stay. It all adds up,” said Jim.