Laois Friends, Special Needs, Social and Recreational Committee (“Laois Friends”) was founded in 2000 with the following objectives:
1) To advocate for appropriate services for people with special needs and their families;
2) To create social and recreational opportunities for the local and wider community but catering in particular for people with special needs and their families.
See www.rockviewwalkways.com for more details.
Michael Deevy a landowner from Cashel Portlaoise, Co. generously signed over part of his holding to the Laois Friends group who in turn approached Laois Partnership for their support in the development of the area (known as Rockview Walkways). Their application to the Rural Development (LEADER) Fund was successful and capital funding was provided over two phases as follows:
- As part of the first phase funding for paving and bridging to create a 1700 metre metre network of wheelchair accessible walkways through unplanted areas of a FEPS forestry plantation. A car parking area was also developed.
- As part of the second phase an additional 1.5 acre area was developed as a sensory garden/ community garden with additional picnic facilities for visitors.
Ongoing support is also being provided through the RSS and Tus work programmes. With support from these programmes the site has continued to develop. For example, a farm building has been converted as a resource centre complete with kitchen/ meeting area and toilet facilities.
The site has also being promoted and showcased by our Walks and Recreation Officer. For example the Laois Walks Festival 2014 (which was supported through the Rural Development Programme (LEADER)) included a public walk on the site as part of the month-long walking festival.
The project provides a good example of commercial forestry production and public recreation being facilitated side by side on the one location.
It also provides a good example of a number of different agencies and programmes cooperating and complementing each other for the benefit of the wider public.
- Access to exercise and activity – through walkways and garden areas
- Universal access – the project accommodates all abilities and the path surfaces are compatible with wheelchair use.
- Promotion of biodiversity – through the FEPS native planting mixes
- Commercial Return – the main site is still a commercial forestry plantation which is not being curtailed by the public recreation element of the project.