(From left): Dillon Flynn, Michael Dunne, Jack Brady, Ava May Carpenter, Lila May Lydon and Muireann Tynan pointing to where they have travel on a bus to take them to the pitch which is just 1km away, because the road is so busy. Photos: Gerry Shanahan-www.cyberimages.net

Climate conscious kids want connecting footpath to link school and football pitch

The urgent need for a footpath linking Carnaross village and GAA club, has been highlighted by local residents and the football club, as well as by local schoolchildren who have created an award nominated project on the subject.

Residents are looking for a footpath to link the school and GAA grounds, while Carnaross National School has to hire a bus to bring the children to the GAA grounds despite it being just kilometre away.

Carnaross NS principal, Dervilla Finnegan, points out that it is a Green School which currently has six Green Flags.

"As a school community, we are very committed to promoting sustainable transport modes and the children are keenly aware of their benefits to the environment by reducing emissions and pollution.

"We regularly use Carnaross GFC for school football matches but at present, our only option is to travel there by bus. This is contrary to everything we believe in as a Green school and is giving our children mixed messages.

“Using buses also incurs a lot of extra expense on families. A connecting footpath from the village to Carnaross GFC would be of huge benefit to our school, environmentally and financially. We are also a Health Promoting School and would fully endorse this initiative from an active lifestyle perspective.”

The environmental and health implications moved a group of students to create a project for the STEPS Young Engineering Awards, which has been shortlisted among the final 30 entries.

A group of Ms Aine Tynan's students created a model of the village with a footpath linking the school and the GAA pitch, which included an underground tunnel beneath Carnaross mart.

Their project is entitled "The Royal Imaginings Underground Tunnel."

Damian Finn, chairman Carnaross GFC said in an age of increased levels of technology and sedentary lifestyles, the local GAA club provides amenities to help encourage a healthier lifestyle.

"Carnaross GFC is continuously developing and enhancing their community centred facilities, from playing fields to walking tracks. We feel very strongly that a footpath linking the centre of the village and the football club would benefit the physical and mental health of the whole village by providing safe access to its facilities to the young, old and disabled, in a carbon neutral manner. This is a vital part of the sustainable future development of the village".

Cllr Sarah Reilly has highlighted the need for the footpath in Carnaross, as well as the need for similar projects in several other villages around the county.

During a recent visit to Carnaross School, Cllr Reilly engaged with the fourth-class students who were working on the tunnel project. "The students passionately conveyed the challenges they face due to the absence of a footpath.

"Despite the proximity of the pitch, only a kilometre away, they are compelled to hire a bus every time they wish to play a match, leading to a significant environmental impact.

In a bid to address the pressing need for rural infrastructure development, Cllr Reilly tabled a motion to Meath County Council, calling for the allocation of funding towards rural footpath projects. The motion was a response to the stagnation of several footpath initiatives in Kells Municipal District (MD) including the Carnaross footpath and will now be discussed by the Transportation Strategic Policy Committee.

At a recent meeting of Kells Municipal District Council she urged Kells councillors seek support from the full Council for the establishment of a fund to cater for footpath projects that facilitate active travel and are ineligible/rank poorly under Government Schemes.

She recalled that previous funding schemes, such as the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme, The Town and Village Renewal Scheme, and Clar played a critical role in funding new footpath projects.

"However, with these funding streams no longer accepting applications for such projects, rural communities are left without viable avenues to advance essential footpath infrastructure. "It is very frustrating being unable to assist in the advancement of such projects," she said, highlighting the need to prioritise funding for rural footpaths to enhance connectivity and accessibility in rural areas."

She was told the Council has an annual footpath programme that is funded from IPB and its own resources. The Council’s three year capital plan also identifies spending under the heading of MCC funded Sustainable Travel.

There are a number of factors which affect the choice of schemes that are included in the annual footpath programme including footpath condition, number of accidents, number of users, supporting objectives in the development plan, requests for works, development levies and potential to be funded by other sources.