#InlandWaters - The Shannon Blueway initiative received its second major award of the year at a star-studded event in Limerick's Thomond Park recently.
The European Sports Tourism Innovation Award was presented by Ireland's 6 Nations winning captain Paul O'Connell and Keith Wood of W2 Consulting to the Shannon Blueway partners Leitrim Tourism and Waterways Ireland at the prestigious European Sports Tourism Summit Awards on 14 May last.
Launched in October 2014, the Shannon Blueway is the first of its kind in Ireland where a myriad of recreational activities have been developed and bundled together as a single or multiple visitor experience and tourism proposition.
Waterways Ireland has developed and built a canoe trail from Drumshanbo through Battlebridge and Leitrim village to Carrick-on-Shannon. It has also developed a series of looped walks adjacent to the Lough Allen Canal, with plans to expand those walks to Drumshanbo and Carrick on Shannon.
At the same time, Waterways Ireland is also developing a canoe trail from Leitrim village along the 63km of the Shannon Erne Waterway with a walking and cycling trail also at an advanced stage of planning.
The wider Shannon Blueway, of which the Drumshanbo to Carrick-on-Shannon section is part, is at the heart of access to 100km of paddling area, six looped walks (three of which are on the canal towpath), two long-distance walks and three heritage trails. The blueway will ultimately provide access to 14 towns and services with each access point and town within an hours' paddling time.
The Shannon Blueway is being delivered by Waterways Ireland in partnership of the Irish Sports Council, Canoeing Ireland, Leitrim County Council, Leitrim Tourism and Fáilte Ireland.
Chief executive Dawn Livingstone confirmed that partnership was the key to delivering the Shannon Blueway.
"Waterways Ireland has invested significantly in creating world beating facilities and services on the Shannon Navigation and is delighted to see this initiative recognised with the European Sports Tourism Innovation award.
"Through our partnership with the National Trails Office, Canoeing Ireland, Leitrim Tourism and Leitrim County Council an outstanding multi-activity product has been built in the Shannon Blueway which is now being packaged by clubs and communities for their recreational activities and companies and organisations for domestic and international tourists. Partnership is key to delivering the future of the Shannon Blueway further into Leitrim and into Roscommon, Longford and Cavan."
Frank Curran, CEO of Leitrim County Council, said that the Shannon Blueway "represents an excellent product that has been developed through collaboration between Waterways Ireland and Leitrim County Council to facilitate the development of this signature tourism offering for Co Leitrim and the region."
The European Sports Tourism Innovation Award is the second prize this year for the inland waterways initiative, after taking the Best Tourism Initiative category of the 2015 Community and Council Awards in January.