The vision and future of Galway's rivers and canals
Galway has a beautiful and intricate system of rivers and canals that would be the envy of most European cities. Yet for the past 70 years much of this system has been in a state of continuous decline. Not to mention, with imaginative development, the huge contribution it could make to the amenity offering, tourism potential or, indeed, image of the city. Since November 2016, we have studied the situation and have come increasingly to the realisation that a waterways regeneration and development programme could represent one of Galway City’s greatest cultural, environmental amenity and tourism development possibilities for many decades, and that the time and circumstances are right for its initiation.
We envision the project as having three possible strands, as follows:
- Community Ideas (Short and Mid-term Vision):
The results of a series of three public workshops held in 2017 to find out what the users of Galway’s rivers and canals want from their waterways. A number of realistic and deliverable tactical projects for waterways beautification and enhancement. At present, there are seventeen of these that are enumerated in our European Capital of Culture 2020 programme for Galway. See Galway 2020.
- Galway Waterways Foundation (GWF) Ideas (Long-term Vision):
A submission to Failte Ireland, the Minister of Tourism, and the Minister of the Office of Public Works describing a long-term vision for Galway’s waterways, links to the larger Corrib catchment, and the amenity and tourism potential of greenways, blueways, and related museums. A series of high visibility, strategic projects that could rank in stature with iconic international developments such as the Titanic Centre in Belfast, the High Line in New York, the Lake Como Walkway in Italy and the La Viletta Futuristic Science Museum in Paris. Click here for more information.
- Corrib Waterways Infrastructural Projects
A holistic Corrib Waterways system development plan to reclaim the central role the Corrib has played in the life of Galway, Mayo and their environs which could open up what could become an internationally acclaimed waterways highway to the beautiful hinterlands surrounding the lake shore and to the blue and greenway amenity development that will become a feature of our region in coming years.
The timing for a waterways initiative is now uniquely favourable for the following reasons:
- So far 18 community groups, companies, and institutions including NUIG have pledged their support for the Galway Waterways Initiative.
- The Galway City Council has passed a motion recommending that the Waterways Initiative be incorporated in the Capital of Culture 2020 programme
- The Capital of Culture Management team have accepted the project and offered a small amount of seed money to kick start the short to medium term projects referred to above.
- The European Water Framework Directive has resulted in the establishment of Local Area and Community Offices (LAWCO) around the country with funding available to help communities develop catchment strategies for their areas.
- The Rivers Trust movement in the UK and Ireland is actively supporting local communities to establish Trusts to manage their rivers and lakes
All of these will contribute to the realisation of the shorter to medium term projects but more is required to achieve the longer term and more strategic objectives outlined above. What is needed is a grand vision for the Corrib waterways and appropriate organisational structures and funding mechanisms to deliver it. We see this evolving in three stages:
Stage 1: Establishment of a local consultative group including the key players such as OPW, NPWS, IFI, NUIG, Failte Ireland, the LCNT and City CEO empowered to break down barriers and get things done. Such a group existed previously and was effective.
Stage 2: Alongside this and at a slightly later stage the formation of a Corrib Catchment Trust to look after the entire catchment area including the Loughs Corrib, Carra and Mask.
Stage 3: Further down the line the consolidation of the confused and dysfunctional ownership and responsibility structure that has contributed to the poor state in which our rivers and canals find themselves. This might take the form of a Trust, Development Company, or Coop.