BALLYHOURA Mountain Bike Trails which is attracting over 50,000 visitors a year has received a €500,000 cash injection.
The Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails, which are free to use, feature over 100km of cross-country single track trails, and is regarded as the finest mountain bike trail network of its kind in Europe.
“Already attracting over 50,000 visitors a year and major international events, the Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails are a real success story and it is forecast to increase to 100,000 visitors over the next five years,” said Fergal Somers, manager of Ballyhoura Failte, based in Kilfinane.
The current economic value to the Ballyhoura region is close to €3 million and the forecast increase in visitors has the potential to grow this to €5 million.
The investment will see a number of new technical mountain bike trails developed, training loops and skills loops – opening up the facility to cater for all the family and the more advanced mountain biker.
This investment is a partnership of Ballyhoura Heritage and Environment Ltd, Limerick County Council, Cork County Council, Coillte, ESB and Ballyhoura Development Ltd through the RDP/LEADER programme.
This is phase two of a three phase plan that will see the Ballyhoura Mountain Bike Trails compete with the very best internationally.
The trails will host Ireland’s first international cycling event - the European Marathon Championships in June. A cycling event of this calibre has never been hosted in Ireland previously and has the potential to deliver close to 8,000 bed nights to the region and contribute €1 million to the local economy.
This event is also a key event for the Limerick City of Culture whose support is making the event viable.
The event will see the very best European bikers come to Ballyhoura for approximately 10 days.
The project has raised sufficient funding to date and will be launching a fundraising campaign shortly to raise €100,000 which will be needed to complete the project for everyone who uses the trails.
Meanwhile, at a Limerick County Council meeting this week, Tom Enright, the director of planning and economic development, proposed the council loan €80,000 to Ballyhoura Heritage and Environment Ltd.
The money, Mr Enright explained, would be used to extend the trails in readiness for the European Mountain Biking Championships.
But he assured councillors it was only a loan until such time as a €160,000 community contribution was paid to Ballyhoura from Coillte and the ESB who are developing a wind-farm in the area.
The wind-farm is going ahead and is now out to tender, he added, and he expected the loan to be repaid by December 2015. Cork County Council has already approved a loan of €80,000, he told councillors.