Pioneers of the Great Southern Greenway Limerick honoured at European Awards

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Winners of eighth European Greenways Awards announced at gala ceremony in Adare.

Liam O’Mahony, chairman of the Great Southern Trail Limited has been awarded a Special Jury Prize at the eighth European Greenways Awards held recently in the Dunraven Arms Hotel.

The award was in recognition of the pioneering work done by Liam and the volunteers of the Great Southern Trail for more than 25 years.

Their tireless endeavours have succeeded in making the conversion of the disused section of the Limerick to Tralee railway into a greenway a reality to be enjoyed by all.

Upgrade works are already ongoing with further plans to develop the now re-named Great Southern Greenway Limerick following Limerick City and County Council’s decision to take over the overall management of the greenway.

The European Greenways Association (EGWA) was established in 1998 in Namur in Belgium with the aim of encouraging the creation and promotion of greenways across Europe.

It brings together more than nearly 50 different organisations from 16 European countries involved in the development of greenways.

Since its foundation in 1998, EGWA has

·         Contributed to the preservation of infrastructure such as disused railway corridors, canal tow paths and historic routes (Roman roads, pilgrims’ paths, etc) with the aim of converting them into traffic-free routes and maintaining public access to the land;

·         Encouraged the use of non-motorized transport, by drawing up inventories of potential routes and technical reports

·         Promoted and coordinated the exchange of expertise and information between different associations and national and local bodies involved in developing greenways throughout Europe

·         Advised local and national bodies on how to develop traffic-free routes

·         Collaborated with European bodies to support their policies on sustainable development, environmental issues, regional balance and employment.

The biennial European Greenways Awards began in 2003 and are presented to greenway projects that stand out for their excellence and demonstration of best practice.

Limerick City and County Council hosted this year’s awards in the Dunraven Arms Hotel.

The international jury gave awards in two categories: “Excellence” and “Exemplary Initiatives” along with the Special Jury Prize.

Excellence Category

1st Prize Vennbahn- (Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg) presented by the East Belgium Tourism Agency (Tourismusagentur Ostbelgien), Belgium

For the excellent 125 km long cross-border greenway running through three countries (Germany, Belgium, and Luxembourg) which makes use of one old cross-border railway line. Conceived and developed as a European cooperation project, the greenway has been continually improved since its inauguration in 2013, perfecting its already excellent initial overall quality and considerably increasing its popularity and visitors number.

2nd Prize “First Greenway in Serbia” presented by the city of Uzice, Serbia

For the redevelopment as a high quality greenway infrastructure of the first 5 kilometres of an abandoned railway line in the River Djetinja canyon. It is accessible for all, including people with reduced mobility. The initiative, which has regenerated the corridor and provided access to a privileged natural setting, enjoys a high level of local involvement and receives a strongly growing number of visitors.

3rd Prize Rio Minho Greenway – Portugal presented by the Municipalities of Monção, Valença, Vila Nova de Cerveira and Caminha, Portugal.

For the high quality infrastructure of the nearly 50 km long itinerary along the Minho River, using a disused railway line extended by riverside paths and rural tracks. The Minho Greenway connects towns, villages and places of natural interest, many of them part of the Natura 2000 Network, enabling locals and tourists, including those with reduced mobility, to access areas of exceptional natural beauty. It has been highly rated by visitors.

 

Exemplary Initiatives Category

1st Prize Sierra Greenway universal accessibility adaptation plan presented by the Sierra Greenway Foundation (Andalusia, Spain)

For an initiative to achieve universal accessibility on a greenway located in an isolated mountain area, so that everyone can use and enjoy the Sierra Greenway and associated services without difficulty and without barriers. A small project in terms of budget but one with a very high positive impact in terms of results, it is encouraging more people with disabilities to visit the greenway.

2nd Prize Greenways of the Jaen Green Corridor presented by the Jaen Provincial Government (Andalusia, Spain)

For the long term initiative of reforesting and rehabilitating 35.8 km of the greenway corridor in the province of Jaen in order to alleviate the extreme high summer temperatures, to protect and maintain biodiversity, and to provide food resources for animals and users (fruit). 23,635 plants of different formats and species have been reintroduced since 2005 and the work is ongoing.

3rd Prize Way-of-commitment / Vía Compromiso presented by the Greenways Consortium of the Region of Murcia, Spain

For the innovative initiative for the conservation, maintenance, and enhancement of the greenway of the Northwest of Murcia through volunteer actions within the framework of corporate social responsibility, combined with the performance of maintenance work on the greenway by people serving community service sentences. This scheme helps maintain the greenway while at the same time contributing to social integration.