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The official launch of the River Links Project took place in DoneyloopCommunity Centre on Friday 11th May. The River Links Projectis part financed by the European Union’s Regional Development Fund INTERREG IVAProgramme, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and theDepartment of Environment, Community and Local Government and is managedby the Special EU Programmes Body.
The River Links Project, valued at €2.1m, is a cross border project andis led by Donegal County Council. Project partners include Ballybofey andStranorlar Integrated Community Company (BASICC) and Strabane District Council.
The focus of the River Links Project is on the Finn Valleyin Eastern County Donegal and neighbouring areas in the Strabane DistrictCouncil catchment including the Finn and Artigarvan Wards.
There are four main outputs of the Project. One output includes thedevelopment of the Community Enterprise Centre in Stranorlar. Inaddition, environmental improvements to CladyBridge, Clady Villageand establishment of a pedestrian footpath linking Clady and Doneyloop are alsoincluded. Another output is the development of the Foyle Wetlands whichwill open up access to the StrabaneCanal for walkers andcanoeists. The final output is the creation of the Foyle & Finn RuralNetwork which will seek to engage community groups from throughout theproject’s catchment area to focus on developing their communities and workingin partnership.
The launch event was hosted by the Lead Partner, Donegal County Council andMichael Heaney, Director of Services, acted as Master of Ceremonies for thelaunch. Martin McAndrew, the River Links Project Manager providedthe assembled audience with an overview of the four elements of the Project.
In his address Minister of State DinnyMcGinley T.D. praised the work of the three project partnersin developing the River Links Project and wished them well during the implementation phase.
Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Minister MichelleO’Neill M.L.A. said: “I welcome this project and that my Department ishelping to fund the transformation of River Links from an idea intoreality. This project is an excellent example of practical ruraldevelopment in action – it combines many of the key themes that are essentialto revitalise and sustain rural communities.
“There has been longstanding cooperation between the Councils and mydepartment through Interreg and I wish both Donegal and Strabane Councils,along with BASICC and all those involved, best wishes on the continued deliveryof this project and I trust that its legacy will be enjoyed for many years tocome.”
The Mayor of Donegal County Council, Cllr. Noel McBride spoke of the benefits of the River Links Project and the opportunity to further strengthen cross border ties with Strabane District Council.
Cllr Cllr. Maoliosa McHugh of Strabane District Councilalso spoke of the potential benefits from the improvements to Clady village, Clady Bridgeand the recreational opportunities created by the Foyle Wetlands development.
The Chairperson of BASICC, Kieran Doherty described the anticipatedbenefits for the Twin Towns from the development of the Community EnterpriseCentre which would provide the ideal environment for start-up enterprises.
Pat Colgan, ChiefExecutive of the Special EU Programmes Body said:
“The aims of the River Links project align very closely with thepriorities of the INTERREG IVA Programme. The project seeks to address thedifficulties caused by the peripheral nature of the region, which are felt morestrongly in the border areas by focusing on the development of businessinfrastructure, tourism facilities and the physical regeneration of local townsand villages. I am confident that through this work River Links will contributepositively to furthering the objectives of the European Union in its commitmentto the economic development of rural areas.”
The River Links Project is under way and is scheduled for completion by July 2014.