New Shannon Tourism Masterplan to Transform Tourism in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands

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A major new plan to develop the tourism potential of the Shannon region, The Shannon Tourism Masterplan, has been launched today (2 March) by Catherine Martin T.D., Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media and Darragh O’Brien T.D, Minister for Housing, Local Government & Heritage with John Mc Donagh, CEO of Waterways Ireland and Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland.

The Shannon Tourism Masterplan is the first dedicated plan undertaken on the entire Shannon Region, setting out a bold and integrated framework for sustainable tourism development along the Shannon across 2020 – 2030.

The Masterplan is a collaborative project led by Waterways Ireland with Fáilte Ireland and 10 Local Authorities along the River Shannon and Shannon-Erne Waterway.

The Masterplan has examined the potential for positioning the Shannon as a hub destination for international and domestic tourism. It identifies the scale and scope of this challenge and has identified the measures needed to develop the necessary infrastructure, products, and experiences to reposition the Shannon Region as a key tourism destination within Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

Three key themes are identified in the plan, The Shannon, Mighty River of Ireland, Shannon Journey’s and Adventures and The Natural Timeless Shannon.

Catherine Martin TD Minister for Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media stated:

“The Shannon Tourism Masterplan provides a significant and extensive framework to grow tourism in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands aligning strongly with government’s national policy to drive rural development through tourism.

“I welcome the publication of this plan today as its successful delivery will create a haven for on-water and off-water experiences offering a range of ways to be active in nature, in a sustainable manner. By inviting the visitor to slow down, stay longer and to engage with local heritage and communities Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland and the Local Authorities will support the creation of unforgettable holiday experiences that will benefit local businesses and communities on, and surrounding, the river.”

Minister for Housing, Local Government and Heritage Darragh O’Brien said:

“Waterways Ireland and the Local Authorities with Fáilte Ireland, have worked effectively to develop this Masterplan for the Shannon Region which will over the next 10 years, with the support of my Department, deliver a series of projects impacting on the economy and jobs whilst protecting and enhancing the valuable environmental, social and cultural values of the Shannon. I welcome this launch, coming at a time when the tourism and hospitality industries need support to reboot and I look forward to working with my colleagues across government to support its implementation.”

The Masterplan contains an action plan of projects that will require an estimated €76.5 million investment to realise the ambitions of the Masterplan over the ten years.

This capital expenditure will deliver on the seven priority areas in the plan and include interventions such as enhanced harbours and waterside public realms in Shannon towns; improved amenities for boat users and infrastructure for activity providers, clubs and communities to operate; a rejuvenated cruising experience along the Shannon; remote moorings and tranquillity zones along the Shannon and new recreational infrastructure including a substantial network of walking and cycling trails. *See more details in note to editor.

This will in turn support growth in the visitor economy through the creation of new enterprises and jobs through enhanced seasonality; increased vibrancy in local communities and protection of the river’s special environmental qualities.

Paul Kelly Chief Executive of Fáilte Ireland said:

“The Shannon Tourism Masterplan provides a clear roadmap for future tourism investment within Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands that will transform the region to deliver a better spread of tourism and visitor activity within the midlands.

“Fáilte Ireland’s commitment to implementing this plan is underlined by a recent €2.1m capital investment that will see some transformative infrastructural changes and enhanced facilities developed across the Shannon as early as this year. Included in the investment is the redevelopment of Connaught Harbour, new and enhanced waterside amenities in Athlone, Red Bridge and Rooskey and the development of nine floating moorings at locations along the Shannon, which will be unique to the region.”

*(see notes to editor for further details on 2021 projects under the plan)

Waterways Ireland has invested over €40m on and along the Shannon, creating the foundation for new tourism and recreation opportunities for communities and business. These foundations include infrastructure such as marinas; moorings; service facilities for users and tourists; and the development of on and off-water activities and experiences such as blueways and greenways.

John Mc Donagh. Chief Executive with Waterways Ireland confirmed:

“This plan provides a strategic direction and a growth pathway for the next 10 years for tourism along the Shannon and Shannon-Erne Waterway. The plan is an exemplar of a collaborative approach and one Waterways Ireland will use to produce developmental plans for our other navigations. I am in no doubt that when implemented, the tourism experience on the Shannon will be transformed. Work to this end has already begun for example Waterways Ireland with its partners is delivering a redevelopment of Connaught Harbour; new jetties at Athlone and Red Bridge; upgrades to Dromod Harbour; a canal walk and amenity park at Roosky; conservation at Fort Eliza and Meelick Martello Tower; canoe trails at O’Briensbridge and Inner Lakes; and the Shannon Greenway running from Limerick to Scarriff.”

The Shannon has always played – and will always continue to play – an important role in the heritage, history, economy, and tourism development of the counties through which it flows. The Shannon Tourism Masterplan sets out a clear set of ambitions and an action plan to achieve them. The collaborative effort which has brought the Plan to this point will be essential to its success. All the partners are committed to the journey towards the Shannon as a world-class destination within Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

Notes to editor
Counties included in the plan
The plan has been developed in partnership between Fáilte Ireland, Waterways Ireland and 10 Local Authorities along the navigation which include Cavan, Leitrim, Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Offaly, Galway, Clare, Tipperary, Limerick City & County.

Priority areas set out in the plan for development:
Three key themes are identified in the plan: The Shannon, Mighty River of Ireland; Shannon Journeys and Adventures; and The Natural Timeless Shannon.

Within these themes, the plan sets out seven key priority areas for development over the next ten years:

Communicating a clear and consistent message – creating a singular vision for the Shannon aligned with Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands
Enhancing the on-water visitor experience
Enhancing the waterside visitor experience
Developing the Shannon’s towns and villages
Protecting and enhancing the Shannon environment
Improving connectivity
Building enterprise and community networks
2021 Projects for delivery under The Shannon Tourism Masterplan in 2021 include:
Connaught Harbour Redevelopment, Portumna, Co. Galway: The re-development of Connaught Harbour will include a significant expansion of the number of mooring berths in the harbour for public use, the addition of a canoe step for access to the Lough Derg Blueway; additional onshore facilities such as seating and picnic areas; a new cycle and walking trail linking Connaught Harbour to the town and Lough Derg Blueway; additional parking facilities to the existing car park and improved visual impact of the harbour by creating a sense of arrival in the town.

Development of new and enhanced waterside amenities and enabling infrastructure in the following three locations:

Athlone, Co. Westmeath: Improving access to the water by developing a slipway at Golden Island in Athlone to provide direct access to the Shannon for boaters, canoeists, and anglers and the development of 8 new cruising berths and a canoe step at Athlone Railway Bridge.

Red Bridge (Ballymahon), Co. Longford: The development of a new water-based activity hub on the Shannon due to its proximity to Lough Ree, Ballymahon and Center Parcs including new cruiser berths and a low-level floating jetty to facilitate canoe and small boat access and egress.

Roosky, Co. Roscommon: Development of 10 cruiser berths in the heart of the village to provide direct access its amenities.

With the exception of Athlone (which already has ancillary facilities), all other locations will include the addition of car parking, landscaping, interpretation through waterways industrial heritage and recreational furniture (benches and picnic tables).

Development of Remote Moorings at 9 Location on the Shannon – a unique experience to Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands, three sets of three remote moorings will be established in North Shannon, on Lough Ree and on Lough Derg to allow boats to moor in remote locations in the middle of a water body, away from harbours or towns/villages to be at one with nature and the water.

Further detail on key projects to be delivered under The Shannon Tourism Masterplan:
Enhanced harbour and waterside public realm in Shannon towns and villages to improve the waterside experience: improving the interface between the waterway and public realm; enhanced wayfinding; playgrounds; BBQ & picnic facilities.

Improved amenities for boat users and infrastructure for activity providers, clubs and communities to operate. This will form an integral part of bringing the harbours to life

Rejuvenating the cruising experience along the Shannon (as a USP and experience unique to Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands) and improving the availability and quality of berthage for visiting boats

Developing remote moorings and tranquility zones along the Shannon to allow boaters to enjoy the wilderness of Ireland’s Hidden Heartland

Development of new recreational infrastructure including a substantial network of walking and cycling trails – particularly focussing on the development of a network of North-South trails to allow improve linkages with the water

Introduction of Biosecurity Facilities at designated entry points to the Shannon to reduce the risk of further introduction or spread of invasive species

Development of a network of Blueways along the Shannon, Ireland’s newest outdoor product offering

Enhancing the visitor experience at existing attractions and exploring potential for new visitor experiences

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