Plans for the development of a ‘Blueway’ along the River Blackwater are to be lodged with An Bord Pleanála by the summer.
The first phase of the project, which is being developed by Cork County Council, will focus on developing a launch area for boats/kayaks close to Mallow bridge.
Mary Hayes, the council’s senior executive officer for the North Cork region, said that in the first phase, the local authority will look at developing a short journey route from Mallow to Killavullen and then a looped route around Fermoy.
“The development of these routes will be subject to obtaining the necessary consents (from landowners), planning and funding being made available to advance works,” Ms Hayes told a meeting of the council’s Northern Division.
She was responding to a request from Cllr Frank O’Flynn to provide an update on the project which it is hoped will increase visitor numbers to the North Cork region.
Cllr O’Flynn said the project was important for tourism and “would put life back into rural Ireland”.
“After the Shannon, it’s the longest river in Ireland. We can tie it in with other attractions in the area,” he said.
These include a planned multi-million euro upgrade of Mallow Castle, the restoration of the historic Annesgrove House near Castletownroche and Doneraile Court.
Ms Hayes said they had carried out indepth research on the project with the aid of an expert kayaker.
He said the section of the River Blackwater from Millstreet to Mallow was fast flowing and therefore only suitable for advanced kayakers, whereas Fermoy-Mallow was slower and ideal for beginners or those who just wanted a leisurely trip.
“We need a number of stops along the way for people to rest or in case of emergencies. We’re looking at developing first the short journey routes. That’s why Mallow to Killavullen is critical. Our engineers are engaging with landowners,” Ms Hayes said.
James Fogarty, assistant county manager for North Cork, said he was in the same position in West Cork when the Skibbereen Blueway was created.
“They are big projects, but we can start with small parts of them first,” Mr Fogarty said.
Cllr Noel McCarthy, a member of the council’s Economic SPC (Special Purposes Committee), said the viaduct in Fermoy is a hidden gem and it is hoped to open it up to walkers as part of the adventure tourism package.
He said he hoped to have good news from the SPC on funding that project shortly.
The viaduct featured in scenes in the famous Blue Max film (1966) where stunt pilots acting as German World War One ‘aces’ dared each other to fly through the narrow ‘eyes’ of the bridge.