POLITICIANS in Kerry have been urged to ensure that the Great Southern Trail does not become â€œa road to nowhereâ€ by developing the popular walking route on their side of the border.
Limerick County Council is currently pressing ahead with a â‚¬290,000 three-kilometre extension to the trail from Abbeyfeale town to the Kerry border at Kilmorna.
However local councillors are concerned that the trailâ€™s tourist value will not be fully realised unless Kerry County Council further develops the walking and cycling route along the old Limerick-Kerry rail line on its side of the border.
Cllr Liam Galvin said that after years of expensive development work on the trail, locals are â€œanxious it doesnâ€™t stop at the county boundaryâ€ and become â€œa road to nowhereâ€.
County councillors in West Limerick have formally sought a meeting with their counterparts in North Kerry to discuss the further development of the Great Southern Trail. The route now comprises 36km of walking and cycling track from Rathkeale to Abbeyfeale along the old rail line, which connected Limerick and Tralee from the mid-19th century until it closed in 1977.
At a recent local area meeting in Newcastle West, councillors paid tribute to the local authority and the voluntary trail committee who have overseen the development of the amenity in recent years.
Cllr Jerome Scanlan said that the trail is â€œone of the best things that has happened to the Newcastle West area in the last ten yearsâ€, and praised the committeeâ€™s â€œcommitment and dedication to what has been an important part of our historyâ€.
Cllr Michael Collins described it as â€œa fantastic resource and amenityâ€, and said that â€œwe need to spur the Kerry people on to get cracking on their sideâ€. Cllr Damien Riedy said that the trail had become â€œa very positive thing in this areaâ€ in terms of local tourism.
Cllr Galvin said that in a bid to boost visitor numbers, the State should consider renovating Purt Castle, a 14th century Geraldine guard post, and incorporating it into the trail. He said that the castle could become a centrepiece for local tourism if it was in â€œa safe conditionâ€.
Anthony Coleman of Limerick County Council said that renovating Purt castle would prove difficult on a number of fronts, primarily as it is in a â€œdangerous condition in its current stateâ€ and would require significant funds. Mr Coleman added that the OPW has also looked into the situation, and the ownership of the property is â€œnot clearâ€.