Three months of improvement works at Strabane Canal and The Gribben have begun this week.
William Doherty Construction Ltd is contracted to carry out the works, which commenced on Monday 22 June and entail extensive resurfacing of the 1.2km of towpath from Greenlaw Road to the Foyle, fencing improvements, and new signage and seating.
At The Gribben, the plans include providing improved camping facilities and adding new signage and seating.
The £225,000 project is being part-funded by Derry City and Strabane District Council, the Loughs Agency and the Northern Ireland Rural Development programme 2014-2020 from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Union.
It is part of the Rivers Project, a rural co-operation partnership between the Loughs Agency, Derry City and Strabane District Council, Donegal County Council and Causeway Coast and Glens Council, as well as partners in Latvia and Estonia.
The aim of the project is to improve facilities for both land and water users at the council-owned Strabane Canal and the Loughs Agency-owned Gribben site.
The council says the project will deliver on several of the key priorities in its Green Infrastructure Plan, including the provision of high quality multi-functional green and blue spaces, and ensuring these are a driver for tourism and economic growth.
Welcoming the commencement of the works, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Cllr Brian Tierney, said this was very welcome news for the people of Strabane and the wider area.
He said once complete, it will make the Strabane Canal area and The Gribben much safer and accessible to the public.
“This is a very popular area for walkers, cyclists and people who love the outdoors and I am delighted council and its partners have taken the lead in upgrading the amenities in the area to make it more accessible and enjoyable for people to use,” he said.
Loughs Agency chief executive Sharon McMahon said it “is pleased to be a partner in this project, that will improve the experience for visitors to Strabane Canal and Gribben Quay”.
“The agency continues to work on the development of marine tourism and angling throughout the cross border Foyle Catchment, exploring innovative ways for people to become better connected to the beautiful, natural assets we have in our care,” she added.
Mary Hunter, chair of Derry and Strabane Rural Partnership, said the canal works comprise “the first capital project under the Rural Development Programme Co-operation Scheme” for the partnership.
“Meaningful improvements to both sites will make them more appealing for local users and will also enhance the visitor experience and tourism potential to these rural areas, which will have a positive economic impact on our rural economy.”
Public access to the site is currently prohibited while this work is being carried out over the next 12 weeks, weather permitting.