Canal user groups committee holds meeting with Council
Mayor Charlie Casey chaired the recent Canal User Groups meeting the in the Arts Centre, Newry. This twice yearly committee meeting allows users of the canal to bring issues affecting the local waterways to official council attention. The meetings were initiated several years ago by the Newry & Portadown branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI). The meeting is also attended by community groups and interested users of the canal such as fishermen and canoeists. In a wide ranging and varied agenda the topics ranged from berthing in the proposed Warrenpoint marina through weed cutting on the ship canal to reinstatement of locks 2 and 3 by the IWAI and restoration of the canal from Sand’s Mill to St. Colman’s college.
Officials from Newry & Mourne Council reported that they would soon be in a position to provide disabled canoe access on the ship canal. The cost of this scheme would be supplemented by a dept of Culture Arts and Leisure grant. In the city centre it was suggested by Councillor Jackie Patterson that the extended public realm scheme might provide some of the funding necessary to reopen a public right of way at the back of the town hall. This followed a proposal from the Newry Maritime Association who also suggested that no alcohol and no littering signs be erected along the canal towpath. The IWAI outlined plans for their annual bath-tub race on June 23rd with prizes sponsored by Surefreight, Courtney’s Sandwich Bar and the McCrum family. NMDC officials assured the branch that any of the toxic giant hogweed growing on the stretch of canal where the race takes place would be eradicated.
Since November of last year the IWAI Newry & Portadown branch have been in consultation with NIEA, NMDC and Rivers Agency about the removal of the throttle pipe at lock 2 and the branch chairman reported on the intention to reinstate the locks and reopen the navigation to small craft. Councillor Casey wished the branch well with the endeavour and said it sounded like a very encouraging development for the canal.
Local fishermen expressed their wish to see a path reinstated on the Middle Bank between Victoria Lock and St Christopher’s park; an aspiration supported by IWAI and NMA. Council officials present had reservations given that the future of the Middle Bank development site is as yet unclear. The users group had concerns that the traditional right of way along the bank might be lost if not used by the public and currently access is not permitted. The group was assured by council officials present that these concerns would be noted and the right protected.
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