Hopes are high of a surge of business to Laois tourism, following the lodgement of planning applications by Coillte for a mountain bike trail on the Slieve Blooms.
The project, in the pipeline since 2010, would offer mountain bike cyclists a total of 73 km of off-road mountain bike trails in varying grades of challenge.
Most of the trail including a cafe would be based on the Laois side, with 40km starting from a trailhead in Baunreagh, going through Monicknew and Bockagh.
The rest would start out from Kinnitty in Offaly, with a link between the two trails along the R440 road.
The plans include facilities to hire bikes, parking, toilets, and a wastewater treatment plant at Baunreagh, with similar facilities at Castletown in Kinnitty.
A café is planned at Baunreagh in the second phase of the project.
Coillte say the facilities would also be available to walkers and hikers.
The applications have been lodged with both Laois and Offaly county councils by Daithi De Forge from Coillte Recreation, who expects that the first stage of the trail will be ready for use by Summer 2017.
“The proposal is still at an early stage in the development process, but the planning application, as well as an accompanying Natura Impact Statement, is now available for public inspection at the offices of Laois and Offaly County Council,” Coillte say.
Public reaction to the development has been positive according to The Slieve Bloom Co-Operative Society, which aims to develop and promote the Slieve Bloom region.
“The development of these trails will have a major impact on tourism numbers in the Slieve Blooms and surrounding area. We are very excited about this major tourism project for the economic and recreational benefit it will bring not just to the midland region but the wider Irish community.
We are amazed at the huge response the announcement has generated,” the society said recently.
It is unconfirmed how much the trail will cost to build, with government funding to be sought after planning permission is granted.
The trail is the second of four national bike trails planned by Coillte.
A similar trail in the Ballyhoura Mountains in Limerick brings in about 40,000 visitors a year.
The bike trail itself would be two foot in width, within a corridor of 100 metres across the mountain.
A Natura Impact Statement was submitted with the application.
A decision is due on the Laois application by May 25, and by May 23 in Offaly.
To make a submission or view the application, see the planning section on www.laois.ie, ref. 16125. See www.coillteoutdoors.ie for details of other trails.