The greenlight has been given to the Laois portion of a 72.8km mountain bike trail project through the Slieve Blooms.
Laois County Council has just granted permission to Coillte Teoranta to develop a 40.6km bike trail within the county, starting from a trailhead in Baunreagh, going through Monicknew, Bockagh, Baunrush, Bordowin, and Castleconnor.
The trail will then pick up on the Offaly side starting in Kinnitty, with a link between the two trails along the R440 road.
The proposed development will also include the renovation and extension of existing building into a facilities building to include a cafe at Baunreagh, as well as bicycle hire facilities and the construction of parking areas.
The bike trail, approximately 0.6m wide (within a corridor width of 100m), will include boundary treatments, signs, and structures for river and road crossings.
Included in the original planning application was written support from Ms Hannah Flynn, of Roundwood House in Laois.
“As a hotel owner in the Slieve Blooms I believe the area has always been overlooked by Failte Ireland, remains underdeveloped, and has therefore not benefitted from the significant increase in tourism numbers that Ireland has seen in the last few years,” said Ms Flynn.
She went on to say that the Slieve Blooms is “ripe for fulfilling... tourism needs”.
Also supporting the plans was The Velo Shop Ltd in Birr, which outlined: “The trail network proposed will be the best of its type in Ireland, in probably the most attractive location. It will attract both experienced riders and newcomers. It has the potential to make the Slieve Blooms a vibrant centre for activity-based tourism.”
And the Wolftrap Cycling Club, Birr, enthused that: “The scope and quality of the trails planned will make it the biggest and best trail centre in Ireland, and as such a popular destination for riders from all over the country.”
Planning applications were lodged with both Laois and Offaly county councils by Daithi De Forge from Coillte Recreation, who said that the first stage of the trail will be ready for use by summer 2017.
“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,” said Coillte.