This is something Donegal County Council can vouch for thanks to the Trail Gazers project – a new initiative inviting tourists to digitally and physically enjoy local trails in a contemporary and innovative manner, trails which are perhaps often excluded from popular guidebooks.
Along with its nine partner regions across Ireland, the UK, Spain, Portugal and France, Donegal County Council is using its EU funding to preserve and exploit local natural resources in a sustainable way, whilst using technology to promote the selected destinations and evaluate the impact of their investment.
“It’s a way to optimally harness the natural and cultural environment for the benefit of the community,” Loretta McNicholas, Research and Policy Manager at Donegal County Council says.
“We want to determine the return to the local community of every euro spent on walks and recreational trail development. By this we are not just talking of the actual monetary return we are looking at the wider benefits to the community in terms of health, recreation, local employment and other such spin-offs.”
The Trail Gazers project has allowed Donegal to spread its roots across the Atlantic through the formation of dynamic and diverse partnerships, and Donegal County Council admits it’s an idea which would not have come to fruition without the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
“It is an absolutely huge endorsement to receive EU funding and we are delighted to be able to network with our partners across Europe,” says Ms. McNicholas.
The Trail Gazers Project team will work with a wide array of policy makers across the Atlantic region. In Donegal, for example, it will guide Donegal County Council’s Greenway Strategy and the wider North West region’s Greenway development to enhance tourism, ensure greater socio-economic returns whilst at the same time protecting the natural and cultural environment.
Ms. McNicholas adds: “We have selected a range of Atlantic Area trails to test different business to consumer initiatives, digital marketing techniques, footfall technologies etc but most importantly to exchange learning and international best practice and we simply couldn’t have done it without the funding provided.”