The Galway to Athlone cycleway will complete the car-free corridor between Galway and Dublin for cyclists and walkers, and will span over 300km.
However, farmers involved have asked for the plans for the greenway to “go back to the drawing board” following a lack of engagement from authorities.
Brian Patterson is a farmer along the Meelick to Clonfert section of the proposed Galway to Athlone greenway.
The proposed route would cut through a section of Patterson’s forestry, and he is concerned that the greenway could increase the threat of fire in his plantation, as well as cause wind damage to the trees if a new roadway through it is built.
However, he said none of these concerns have been addressed by the authorities. “The process is hard to trust,” he begins.
“There has been no meaningful engagement by the authorities, and so there is a lot of anxiety here in the community.
A greenway should be about supporting mental and physical health, and instead it’s the complete opposite
“Most people have no understanding of the way landowners are being treated and this is causing a divide in the community.
“A greenway should be about supporting mental and physical health, and instead it’s the complete opposite.
“I have never been opposed to the greenway. It has a lot of benefits, but there needs to be meaningful negotiations with the landowners involved.
“There is currently no engagement with landowners so there is no trust in the process,” he adds.
Evan Williams, who farms in Meelick, shares the same concerns.
“The lack of engagement is frightening. There are still some landowners who have yet to be contacted,” he says.
“Those most affected should be contacted first, to get people on board, but it seems the authorities are leaving landowners until the last hurdle.”
Having granted a local kayak club access to his farm and the use of an outbuilding, Evan says he is more than happy to facilitate the local community.
However, there needs to be increased engagement with the landowners involved.
“Everyone involved needs to be respected and have their concerns heard,” he says, adding that the mention of compulsory purchase orders (CPOs) makes farmers feel they are “backed into a corner. I’d like to see us going back to the drawing board, and the authorities working with us as they should have from the beginning. We need to move forward with proper consultation.”
John Hanley from Stoneyisland says that “farmers aren’t being kept in the loop” and that the proposed greenway had “pit neighbours against neighbours”.
He also shared concerns surrounding safety of his property as well as safety of the public that would be crossing his farm, especially regarding farm animals and machinery.
Hanley voiced his concerns to the authorities during the consultation process.
However, he feels those concerns weren’t listened to.
He says “the greenway should be completely re-routed to go along public roads where local people can also use it for cycling to school and work. It would also benefit local villages more.”
Farmers in the area are also concerned about how the greenway will fragment their land, and how that will affect their successors farming there in the years to come.
Pat Dillon, who also farms in Stoneyisland says: “We all have children who want to farm and we don’t know what to do.
“We can’t apply for grants because we don’t know if it will be viable or not if the greenway goes ahead through our land. It’s hanging over all farmers and affecting them mentally.”
Farmers affected by the proposed greenway have all pledged their support for a cycleway in the area but say they have to be treated with more respect and have their concerns properly addressed regarding the current proposed route and how it would affect them. All we’re asking for is proper engagement, but they are putting the cart before the horse,” Dillon says.