Waterways Ireland has begun the formal process of developing a 'slow tourism' and public amenity River Barrow Blueway through Laois but the project has already drawn controversy in Carlow.
Waterways Ireland is applying to Laois County Council for planning permission to develop the Barrow Navigation taking in the Grand Canal - Barrow Line and River Barrow through various townlands on the border with Kildare and Carlow.
Vicarstown, Courtwood, Fisherstown and Maganey are just some of the areas that fall with in the project area.
"The proposal consists of the development of a multi-use shared leisure route (Blueway) approximately 115kim in lenght on the existing navigation towpath, which is a National Waymarked Way," said the public notice.
The route commences in Laytown, Co Kildare passes through Laois and finishes in St Mullins, Carlow.
Work will be carried out on the following in Laois: Fisherstown Bridge, Courtwood Bridge, Grattan Aqueduct, Vicarstown Canal Warehouse, Vicarstown Bridge, Camac Aqueduct, Ballymanus Bridge and Maganey Bridge.
However, there is already opposition to the project. Broadcaster and journalist Olivia O'Leary is among the members of the Save the Barrow Line Campaign group. It has objected because of the plan to make pathways along the river accessible for cyclists.
The public notice which advises the public that planning applications will be made to three local authorities says that 'tailored surface finishes' will be part of the project.
"The Save the Barrow Line Campaign group opposes Waterways Ireland’s proposal to get rid of the towpath’s quiet grassy surface and replace it with a gravel track for cyclists.
"The existing grass surface, which is so beautiful, accommodates cyclists, walkers, anglers and joggers alike. It ensures a pace which is consistent with the calm beauty of this riverside way and we believe it is this unique beauty which offers the best option for developing the route as a Camino type tourist destination.
"The committee will do all we can but we can’t do it alone. Now is the time to have your say!," said a statement.
Waterways Ireland says intends to carry out an Environmental Impact Statement and Natura Impact Statment.
The agency says the trail will follow through the towns of Rathangan, Monasterevin, Vicarstown, Athy, Carlow, Leighlinbridge, Bagenalstown, Goresbridge, Graiguenamanagh and St. Mullins.
"Once the work is complete on the 115km route, Waterways Ireland will work with the local business and tourism providers to develop the route into a Blueway, a 'slow' tourism product, focusing on leisure activities," says its website.
The agency has organised a series of consultation meetings. Laois 19th January 3pm - 7pm Vicarstown Inn, Vicarstown; Carlow 16th January 3pm - 7pm Seven Oaks Hotel, Carlow; Kilkenny 17th January 3pm - 7pm Scout Hall, Graiguenamanagh; Kildare 18th January 3pm - 7pm Athy Community Library, Athy