As construction proceeds on the huge Centre Parcs Longford Forest holiday development, which is on course to open in the summer of 2019, the company have spent €200,000 on a circular woodland walk which has now been officially opened.
The 1.8-metre wide walkway, which has been developed along a 40-metre protected woodland buffer zone around the edge of the Center Parcs site, is primarily aimed at the local community so that they can continue to enjoy the forest at Newcastle wood.
There was a carnival atmosphere as members of the local community turned out in force for the opening of the walkway.
Young mothers with babies in buggies, middle-aged couples with their dogs and local schoolchildren were among those to avail of free ice-creams and other treats as they made their way into Newcastle Wood, which was festooned with balloons for the official opening.
Speaking before he cut the ribbon to open the walkway, the CEO of Center Parcs, Martin Dalby, said the company was “honouring a promise made to the local community” when the contracts were first signed for the €233m holiday village.
Describing the opening of the walkway, which incorporates three bridges, as “a major milestone” Mr Dalby pointed out that, although the walkway is 3.75km long at present, it will eventually extend to 5.1km, when a section of pathway along the locally named Church Walk becomes fully operational.
That section will remain closed during the construction phase of the project for health and safety reasons.
“We have always stated that the opening of Center Parcs will be transformational, and this path, together with the recent announcements on broadband and gas is exactly that....
“Center Parcs will transform the whole of this area for many, many years to come,” said Mr Dalby, who added that it cost the Center Parcs company a total of €200,000 to create the public walkway through Newcastle Wood.
The cathaoirleach of Longford County Council, Cllr Mick Cahill, performed one of his last duties at the helm of the local authority by jointly cutting the ribbon with Mr Dalby to officially declare the walkway open to the public.
Confiding that he is “not known for making long speeches” Cllr Cahill said the occasion was “especially symbolic” and he was delighted to be involved with Center Parcs right from the beginning of the project to bring a holiday village to Newcastle forest.
“Center Parcs have done what they said on the tin,” he stated.
“They delivered what they said they would deliver with the opening of this walkway today, and it has been a privilege for me to have been involved with them since the start of this process.”
Cllr Cahill added that the company had been “very open and very transparent from the beginning” and he thanked them publicly for their “engagement process” on all levels.
As the walkway was officially declared open, Cllr Cahill had this advice for the gathered assembly: “Keep walking!” he told them.