Saturday will be a landmark day for the Great Southern Trail when the final section to be developed in county Limerick, from Abbeyfeale to Kilmorna, is officially opened. The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar, will perform the official opening at the Old Railway Station Car Park, Abbeyfeale on Saturday February 23rd at 11am. It is the culmination of a 25 year campaign to develop the disused railway line, a 40 kilometre stretch from Rathkeale to Kilmorna.

The latest 3 km extension was developed by Limerick County Council and was funded with a €290,000 allocation under the National Cycling Networks Scheme together with a €60,000 grant from West Limerick Resources. It brings to almost €2 million the amount invested in the Great Southern Trail project to date.

Speaking ahead of Satur-day’s official opening, Liam O’Mahony, one of the driving forces behind the Great Southern Trail project told the Weekly Observer “The Great Southern Trail welcomes this day. It is the culmin-ation of a 25 year cam-paign and county Limerick now has a top class recrea-tional and tourist amenity. The project was first init-iated by Shannon Devel-opment as far back as 1988 before the Great Southern Trail took it over in the 1990s and dissuaded C.I.E. from selling off the track to local landowners. This in turn enabled a fibre optic cable to be laid in 1999 and credit for all this must go to the ordinary people and local commu-nities who stood by the Great Southern Trail through thick and thin.

“We would like to ack-nowledge the unfailing co-operation of the county Limerick farmers and landowners with the pro-ject. We would also like to thank Limerick County Council, Fáilte Ireland, West Limerick Resources and the Recreation Section of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government for their support through the years.”

Inviting everybody to Saturday’s official opening Mr. O’Mahony said, “This ceremony is a tribute to all the people that have helped us along the way and we extend a warm céad míle fáilte to everyone to come along.”

Looking to the future, Mr. O’Mahony added, “Despite recent difficulties we still look forward to the development of the Kerry section of the trail in the overall public interest. We are aware of the huge amount of public goodwill towards the trail in county Kerry.”