A new project to make the most of one of South Tipperary's best natural resources has been launched.
The County Council has been chosen as one of 17 European partners in Waterways Forward, a three-year plan to develop the heritage and tourism potential of the river Suir.
The project aims to deliver a co-ordinated approach to the management and development of waterways, like the Suir, that are being restored and revitalised throughout Europe.
"The river is a resource on our doorsteps – get out and enjoy it". That's the message from Labhaoise McKenna, the County Council's Heritage Officer.
As well as the recreational aspects of the river such as fishing, boating and walking, the project will also examine multi-functional uses such as the tourism and business opportunities that can be developed around the Suir.
An event that will launch boats on the river next summer, either during Clonmel's Junction Festival in July or during Heritage Week in August, will celebrate the river and showcase the work that will be completed by then.
"We also want to develop ways of bringing people from the big honey-pot tourist sites such as the Rock of Cashel to the river", says Labhaoise McKenna.
A Regional Analysis was undertaken of the river and its stakeholders by the County Council's Heritage Office.
A heritage survey was conducted along a 33km of river from Tinhalla Bridge on the Waterford/Kilkenny border and Knocklofty Bridge, upstream of Clonmel. This survey has documented all the built, cultural and natural heritage along the river. A further more detailed study of the Industrial Milling Complex on Suir Island in Clonmel was also conducted.
The main study area was the stretch of river between Carrick-on-Suir and Clonmel. The full reports are available to download on www.southtippheritage.ie/riversuir.
The short, medium and long-term goals are the promotion of existing walking routes along the river; developing the tow path as a public amenity, and looking at the navigational potential of the river for shallow draught craft.
Part of the tow path on the Kilsheelan side of the Gashouse Bridge in Clonmel has been torn up and is inaccessible while work on the Flood Relief Scheme is ongoing, but will be fully restored once that work is completed.
"There's a need for greater community community involvement between all the different agencies involved in the river to develop an overall framework", says Ms. McKenna.
She said South Tipperary was fortunate to be chosen as the only local authority in Ireland to participate in the project, with initial funding of €84,000 to be made available to the County Council.
A scheme is also being developed with Tipperary Institute to develop an interactive web -based map (which it's hoped will be eventually available as an i-phone app) to showcase all the heritage survey data.
The website will showcase all the accessible heritage sites and walking routes along the river and will be an invaluable resource for locals and tourists alike. The first phase of the mapping project will pilot six areas - Carrick-on-Suir, Kilsheelan, Clonmel, Glenbawn, Cahir and Golden/Athassel.
The County Museum has also produced Landscapes of the River Suir education packs that will be an invaluable resource for local school children.
Labhaoise McKenna says that many other local groups are undertaking invaluable projects, including the Workmen's Boat Club, and the Two Bridges Partnership, who are developing walkways in Glenbawn Woodland near Marlfield in Clonmel.