- New supports are a key deliverable under Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors, the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2023-2027
- County Outdoor Recreation Plans will help guide and facilitate the future development of outdoor recreation and will support future applications for funding for outdoor amenities
- Outdoor Recreation Officer posts approved in six counties under three-year pilot programme in association with Sport Ireland.
Minister for Rural and Community Development, Heather Humphreys TD, today (Thursday, 28th December 2023) announced funding of €780,000 to support the development of ‘County Outdoor Recreation Plans’ and issued new national guidelines to assist in their preparation.
Funding of €1.28 million, over 3 years, has also been approved for a pilot programme to introduce County Outdoor Recreation Officers in six Local Sport Partnerships – Clare, Longford, Sligo, Waterford, Mayo, and Meath.
The funding is part of a commitment in Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors, the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2023-2027, which sets the stage to strengthen and support the sustainable development of the outdoor recreation sector in Ireland for years to come.
Support for investment planning at county level
Among the key actions in the strategy is the development of County Outdoor Recreation Plans and the establishment of a County Outdoor Recreation Committee in order to achieve a more planned and coordinated approach for the development of outdoor recreation in the county.
Each county will now receive funding of up to €30,000 to develop a short, focussed plan to underpin the effective development of their outdoor recreation amenities. New guidelines have also been published to ensure that the plans are aligned with the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy.
The plans should take into account the current outdoor recreation amenities in an area and outline where outdoor recreation infrastructure and services should be located over a three-year period.
Future investment decisions in each county will then be informed by these plans, including funding decisions taken under schemes such as the Outdoor Recreation Infrastructure Scheme (ORIS).
Three-year pilot to support New County Outdoor Recreation Officer posts
Funding of over €400,000 per year is also being made available by the Department of Rural and Community Development for new Outdoor Recreation Officer posts in 6 Local Sports Partnerships – Clare, Longford, Mayo, Meath, Sligo and Waterford.
This is part of a 3-year pilot programme which is being delivered in collaboration with Sport Ireland. These officers will provide expertise and guidance to the outdoor recreation sector in the county and will co-ordinate the development and the delivery of the County Outdoor Recreation Plan in their county.
Announcing the funding, Minister Humphreys said:
“More than ever people are getting active in the outdoors and we want to make sure everyone has access to high quality amenities and experiences. That’s why I am pleased to announce these new supports today.
“This is a significant opportunity to identify the key outdoor recreation priorities and opportunities for each county. I would urge the local communities to engage with the consultation process so that they can shape the vision for the future of outdoor recreation in their local area”.
CEO of Sport Ireland, Dr Úna May, welcomed the announcement:
“I am delighted to see these roles being introduced to augment and support our strong network of Local Sports Partnerships (LSPs). The development of outdoor recreation has always been an integral part of Sport Ireland’s ambition to get more people participating in sport and physical activity, and achieve the Government’s target of 60% participation rates amongst Irish adults by 2027. These new Outdoor Recreation Officers will play a significant part in the step change to greater impact in counties across the country”.
Minister Humphreys concluded:
“The supports announced today are part of a wide range of initiatives we are undertaking to further develop our outdoor recreation sector right throughout the country and they are central to the delivery of Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors – the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2023-2027. This is underpinned by an unprecedented level of investment in the sector across Government.”
More information on County Outdoor Recreation Plans can be found here.
Embracing Ireland’s Outdoor – National Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2023 – 2027
Today’s announcement is a key strand to the implementation of Embracing Ireland’s Outdoors, the National Outdoor Recreation Strategy 2023 – 2027 which is set to strengthen and support the sustainable development of outdoor recreation over the next five years. There is a commitment under the Strategy to provide guidance and resource the development of County Outdoor Recreation Plans.
Guidelines for Outdoor Plans
A County Outdoor Recreation Plan should be developed through a collaborative process between by the primary outdoor recreation stakeholders in the county. Guidelines have been produced which aim to minimise the burden on individual counties and funding of up to €30,000 will be made available to each county by the Department of Rural and Community Development to support the development of the plan.
A County Outdoor Recreation Plan Project Team should be established prior to the commissioning of the development of County Outdoor Recreation Plan. Where a County Outdoor Recreation Committee already exists, the Project Team should be a subgroup of the Committee. It is expected that the Team is made up of a maximum of 10 members and should include the primary stakeholders in outdoor recreation including:
- Local Authority, up to a maximum of 2 people , including one Director of Service
- Local Development Company
- Local Sports Partnership Coordinator
- Fáilte Ireland representative
- Coillte representative
- Non agency representative(s) (eg NGB representative)
Additional members can be included where appropriate for the county such as National Parks & Wildlife Service (NPWS), Bord na Móna, Waterways Ireland, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Office of Public Works, Heritage Officer, Biodiversity Officer, Mountain Access Project representative, ETBI, elected representatives etc. All members should be fully conversant with outdoor recreation in the county and working directly in the sector. An agreed, rotating Chair is recommended.
While applications for funding must be submitted by the local authority or local development company, the development of the plan can be led by one of the organisations on the project team.
A copy of the guidelines to develop a County Outdoor Recreation Plan can be found here .
Details on how local authorities and Local Development Companies can apply for the funding to support the development of a County Outdoor Recreation Plan and the level of funding available can be found here on gov.ie.
County Outdoor Recreation Officers (Pilot)
Six Local Sports Partnerships have been selected to participate in a 3 year pilot which will see an Outdoor Recreation Officer employed in the selected area with funding being provided by the Department of Rural and Community Development. The Outdoor Recreation Officer will work in collaboration with the local authority, local development companies, state agencies and other key stakeholder to support a more coordinated, cohesive approach to outdoor recreation at county level. They will coordinate the development and delivery of the County Outdoor Recreation Strategy to support the sustainable development of outdoor recreation in their county. The position will aim to support and increase the number of people active in the outdoors while ensuring that best practice is implemented. The pilot process is intended to ‘prove the concept’ in advance of possible further rollout.
The 6 Local Sports Partnership that have been selected to participate in the pilot are:
Clare, Longford, Mayo, Meath, Sligo and Waterford.