Our Rural Future: Minister Humphreys announces €1.2 million to support recreation facilities and outdoor tourism in Coillte forests

Into the forest. Nature composition.
  • Funding to enhance visitor experience at over 30 locations nationwide
  • Investment to include upgrades to pathways, trails, access roads, boardwalks, carparks and toilet facilities
  • New report shows visitor numbers to Coillte sites increased by 40% during Pandemic

Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, has today announced €1.2 million in funding to support recreation facilities and outdoor tourism in forest parks and other Coillte sites.

The investment includes the upgrades of pathways, trails, access roads, boardwalks, carparks and toilet facilities at 33 Coillte sites nationwide. This additional funding means that the Department of Rural and Community Development will be investing €3.2 million in total in outdoor recreation facilities at Coillte sites this year.

Over 18 million individual visits are made to Coillte forests every year with the visitor numbers increasing by 40% during the Pandemic, according to a report published by the Minister today.

Between March and December of last year, some 2.2 million people visited the top 50 Coillte forests.

In recognition of the growing popularity of our forest parks, Minister Humphreys is today allocating €1.2 million to Coillte in addition to the €2 million already allocated.

The funding is designed to enhance the experience of visitors, support rural tourism and develop Ireland’s unique forest amenities.

The investment also supports the objectives of Our Rural Future, the Government’s five-year strategy aimed at revitalising rural communities.

Among the projects to receive funding today include:

  • Donadea Forest Park, Co Kildare: Significant upgrade to entrance and parking area, as well as the provision of toilet units – €345,000
  • Devil’s Glen, Co Wicklow: Replacement of three footbridges and full upgrade of access route into the car park – €94,500
  • Ards Forest Park, Co Donegal: Upgrade to the main access road from the entrance to the car park – €60,000
  • Castlefreke Forest, Co Cork: Full upgrade of the forest paths – €40,000
  • Western Way, Co Galway: Major repair to the 2,700-metre boardwalk including a new trail layout: €80,000
  • Cong/Clonbur, Co Mayo: Upgrade to the trail behind Cong Abbey, new trail to access the viewing point and new trail to facilitate equestrian access to the forest

Minister Humphreys announced the funding during a visit to Rossmore Forest Park, Co Monaghan, which was the second most visited Forest in Ireland in 2020 after the Dublin Mountains.

During the visit, the Minister also announced the publication of a report outlining the activities funded by her Department and delivered by Coillte in 2020, as part of a five year strategic partnership to improve outdoor recreation facilities.

Announcing today’s funding, Minister Humphreys said:

“For so many of us in rural Ireland, the Pandemic has taught us just how fortunate we are to have big open spaces on our doorsteps.
“From our fields, hills, mountains, rivers, lakes and forests – our unique outdoor amenities are amongst our greatest assets.
“Today’s investment is a prime example of the positive impact ‘Our Rural Future’ is having in our rural communities.
“By investing in our wonderful forests and parks, we are making rural Ireland a destination for outdoor pursuits and adventure tourism, as well as supporting rural economies.”

The Minister added:

“Coillte is Ireland’s largest landowner and also the largest provider of outdoor recreation in Ireland.
“The fact that it welcomes 18 million visitors to its sites each year demonstrates the important role it plays in facilitating both domestic and international tourists.
“Coillte is uniquely placed to provide access to world class tracks and trails through their extensive estates and I am delighted that my Department is providing funding to Coillte to develop these 33 vital amenities.”

Daithi deForge, Head of Recreation at Coillte added:

“Coillte is delighted to have the continued support of the Department of Rural and Community Development to maintain the recreation offering enjoyed by the public across the country.
“With an almost 40% increase in overall visitor numbers to our most popular recreational forests during Covid, access to the outdoors and Coillte’s recreation facilities such as our forest parks, picnic areas, walking and cycling trails has never been more important.
“The support provided by the Department is vital to ensure that Coillte can continue to provide safe and enjoyable access for all the visitors to our forests”.
The increased number of visitors to our forests has led to increased pressure on facilities and with the Department’s support we are now investing in new and upgraded facilities at many of our recreation forests.”

Dr Liam Twomey, Chair of Comhairle na Tuaithe (the Countryside Council) commented:

“Coillte are a key partner on Comhairle na Tuaithe and play a vital role in providing access to recreational infrastructure across Ireland.
“The facilities provided in Coillte forests are of immense benefit to communities and also to the tourism sector. Investment like this enhances the facilities and amenities which the public can use and I commend both Coillte and the Department for working strategically for the benefit of all.”

The report is available on the Department website here.