Mountain bike boost with € 450k sports grant
By KEVIN HUGHES
Wednesday August 03 2011
IT has been described as one of the most exciting sports and tourism projects anywhere in the country and will help propel Kerry into becoming the adventure sports capital of Ireland. The announcement by Minister for Tourism Leo Varadkar that over €430,000 is to be spent on an international standard mountain biking trail close to Glenflesk, has been roundly welcomed throughout Kerry.
The funding for the track at Shroneboy, Loughguittane, means that Kerry will be home to the second highest downhill course in Europe but for mountain bike enthusiasts, the higher spec Killarney facility should be a much more attractive option than the taller Fortwilliam course. The Killarney area will also reap the reward of hundreds of thousands of euros in visitor spending.
Former Cycling Ireland President Michael Concannnon said he was hugely excited about project.
“This is one of the most exciting sport and tourism projects that’s going to come on stream for a long, long time.
“It will be a huge piece of infrastructure that will cater for downhill and cross country enthusiasts and will do wonders for adventure tourism here in Kerry.”
The technical difficulty of the downhill course – 1,800 metres in length and a vertical drop of 360 metres – will mean that downhill riders will have to be experienced and require specialised equipment. It will be ideal as a venue for the European Masters Downhill and Cross Country Championships which have already been granted for 2014 and 2015 respectively.
With the events regularly attracting anything up to 1,000 entrants – last year’s championships in the French Alps welcomed over 800 top competitors – the news has positive implications for Kerry’s tourism sector.
Kerry had been mooted for the 2011 championships but progress on the Shroneboy plan did not progress as quickly as had hoped. Indeed, the idea for a local course originated over three and a half years ago and following an extensive search — including Ordnance Survey and Google Earth maps — for a suitable site by project backers, landowner Con O’Donoghue was approached and came on board.
Backed by Cycling Ireland, last year Kerry County Council granted planning for a downhill track and permission to construct 24 car parking spaces, single storey ancillary changing accommodation and filtration works at Shronaboy. While a submission was received concerning the site, no official appeal was lodged and full planning was granted for the track which was designed by CDesign engineers.
The project is supported by the department, Fáilte Ireland and South Kerry Development Partnership, while Kerry County Council and the NPWS have also been receptive. The landowner, Mr O’Donoghue, has also invested in including a cross country track.
Subject to weather, most of the work on the track should be completed before the year is out.
– KEVIN HUGHES