An ecologist with the Nature’s PATCH Network is planning a series of projects with schools and community groups along the route of the Old Rail Trail – the greenway linking Mullingar and Athlone.
Goska Wilkowska said: “The Greenway is a great resource – I have recently cycled the route and mapped several areas of biodiversity interest.
“There are many different plant species growing along the trail – at the western end are a variety of beautiful wildflowers and close to the towns you can see many plants that have seeded from people’s gardens.”
Goska explained that in the coming weeks she is planning projects and awareness raising event. “We hope local groups will come out and get involved in surveying plants and animals along the trail, and I will be working TY students to develop biodiversity projects focusing on the trail.”
Westmeath heritage officer Melanie McQuade said she was delighted to have Goska working on the project: “It’s a great opportunity for local groups to explore the biodiversity of the Old Rail Trail with an ecologist,” she said.
“Another aim of the project is to develop an plan to improve biodiversity along the trail and to help make it a pollinator friendly route.”
Melanie said that the project is funded mainly by the National Parks and Wildlife Service, the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, with support from Westmeath County Council, through a new grant scheme for implementing actions of the National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021.
“Additional support from ‘Local Agenda 21 Environment Partnership Fund’ will allow us to provide a series of workshops to identify, map and record natural heritage along the Old Rail Trail Greenway and to produce a booklet presenting the results of these workshops,” she said.
“We have funding for seven primary schools, three secondary schools and four community groups to engage with the project,” said Melanie.
“Expressions of interest are currently being sought from schools and community groups along the Old Rail Trail who would be interested in participating in surveys and/or biodiversity walks in their localities.”
For details, contact Ms McQuade at: Heritage@westmeathcoco.ie; or Ms Wilkowska at: firstname.lastname@example.org.