People caught engaging in anti-social behaviour on the Old Rail Trail Greenway could soon find themselves having to pay a fine.
The council have drawn up a list of bye-laws to replace the current non legally binding code of conduct that covers the Old Rail Trail Greenway that runs between Mullingar and Athlone.
The introduction of the bye-laws was welcomed by members of the Planning and Transportation Strategic Policy Committee (SPC) at a recent meeting.
In addition to the introduction of bye-laws, Cllr Sorca Clarke that a “culture of respect” will have to be developed.
“Yes, you can have your dog on the greenway as long as it’s not causing annoyance to anybody. We have a right to use public amenities but with that right comes responsibility. That level of responsibility is to ensure that you do not act in a manner to diminish others’ enjoyment. This is a positive amenity for the area and it has been roundly welcomed and rightly so.
“I would be of the opinion that if there is a serious infringement of these bye-laws that we prosecute. We need to use everything in our power to say that we will not tolerate any form of abuse of these bye laws.”
The greenway has proven popular with cyclists and walkers since its opening in October 2015. There have, however, been complaints about the amount of dog faeces and horse manure on the 40km trail. There have also been a number of complaints about the speed at which some cyclists travel.
While dog owners will be allowed to walk their dogs, the animals will have to be on a leash and muzzled. Owners also face the prospect of being fined if they do not remove pets’ faeces.
Director of services Barry Kehoe revealed that the council had received complaints about hunt groups and other horse riders using the greenway.
“It’s not something that we want to allow to happen in the future for two reasons: health and safety, but also horses have the potential to do damage to the surface of the greenway. We can’t allow horses on it.”
SPC chairman Tom Farrell said that the council is in discussions with a number of hunt groups about their use of the greenway and he expects the matter to be resolved shortly.
Although the council has received complaints about the speed of a small number of cyclists, Mr Kehoe said that he did not believe a limit should be introduced as it would be “practically impossible to enforce”.
Cllr Emily Wallace hoped that the potential penalties for breaking the bye-laws – a €50 fixed payment notice in lieu of a prosecution and a potential fine of €1,700 – is a “strong enough deterrent” to prevent people from engaging in anti-social behaviour.
Mr Kehoe said that with amenities such as the greenway, rules are largely enforced by users. By introducing bye-laws it gives “compliant users something that backs them up when they are challenging someone who is not compliant”.
“It’s just good to have this in the background. Hopefully we won’t have to prosecute people very often, but if we need to we certainly will.”