Gort River Walk is a point of immense pride within the local community. The most important groups that have assisted with the walk are Galway County Council /FAS, and the Gort River Walk volunteers.
Over the course of 18 months, the Gort River Walk volunteers have managed to eliminate an illegal dump, a wall of briar and an invasive plant species known as ‘Old-Mans-Beard’ into a 3.4km decorous and picturesque walkway.
Since January, volunteers have clocked up 364 hours on the River Walk. David Murray, on behalf of the Gort River Walk Development Committee, points to two particular individuals, labelling them as ‘community warriors’ and lauding their key efforts at the core of the volunteer process.
The first, Stefano Solpenza, assisted when the walk was initially opened and in a very vulnerable state. He played a huge part in keeping the walkway open and litter free, David admits. “A chatty and bubbly character by nature, Stefano added a huge amount to the development and character of the trail.”
The second, Flor Burke, joined the Gort River Walk as part of the Galway Rural Development, ‘Rural Social Scheme.’ David posits that Flor has been “a massive influence on the development of the trail.” Flor was placed alongside the FAS crew, assisting heavily in the main trail development. David describes him as having, “a great practical side and can turn his hand to anything and he also has a great sense of space and a very obvious connection to the river.”
The Gort River walk sports a number of benefits both for the community and for the environment. One of the primary benefits, David alludes to, is the social benefit of the walk itself. The river walk will allow people to meet up and socialise in an open space. Mental and physical health benefits are also supported here, with an amenity available that can easily be accessed from the town. Dave hopes that it will contribute to the local economy, attracting visitors and tourists to the town.
There is also an educational element to be drawn from the walkway, helping to promote a better understanding of the history of the river, nature and subsequent heritage, such as the mills former electricity generation, St Manchan’s well, and Old Kinincha Village. Finally, the Gort River Walk has enabled the natural environment to flourish, with the removal of an illegal dumping ground assisting with the river water quality and stinting any environmental degradation that may have ensued.
To conclude, David attributes great thanks to the efforts of local volunteers, “For now we focus on our volunteers and our whole community owes them a great deal because without the we simply wouldn’t have a river walk as it is today!”