The Athlone to Mullingar greenway has been hailed as a major success story and an example for other greenway projects to follow by Transport Minister Shane Ross.
"This is actually achieving everything we want to see from greenways," said Minister Ross on Friday last.
"It’s attracting new people to visit the area, it’s providing an amenity for local people to cycle on, and it’s also making it easier and safer for people to cycle to work and school."
The Minister was speaking in Athlone at the official opening of the 'Old Rail Trail' greenway extension from Garrycastle to the White Gates on the Ballymahon Road.
The extension, which was constructed at a cost of €580,000, was completed in December.
Cllr Frank McDermott, the Cathaoirleach of Westmeath County Council, said the development "has been greeted with great enthusiasm" by people in Athlone and surrounding areas.
"Data from the counters installed along the new section of greenway shows that the current average daily total is in excess of 700 users, with a peak level to date of 1,521 users on the last Sunday in March," said Cllr McDermott.
In his speech, the Minister spoke about plans to continue developing the national Dublin to Galway greenway route.
He said his Department was working on a public consultation document, which will be published after Easter, in relation to its overall greenways strategy.
"This strategy will be finalised by the end of the year, and I expect to be announcing a new competitive round of funding later this year,” he said.
“Athlone and Westmeath are very much at the centre of things when it comes to greenways.
“We have the continuation of the Royal Canal Greenway from Mullingar to Ballymahon in county Longford as well as the Old Rail Trail, and we are working on completing the sections in Kildare and Meath so that by 2018 it will be possible to cycle from Dublin to Athlone almost entirely off-road."
He mentioned that a new bridge across the Shannon in Athlone would form part of the Dublin to Galway route.
"This process will see the construction of a bridge across the Shannon, challenging as that may be, down at the Marina, and that that would provide a new focal point in the town centre," said Minister Ross.
“Our ambition is to complete the Greenway all the way to Galway and I hope that those who are currently opposed to Greenways see the benefits to the entire community that the Old Rail Trail has brought to those in County Westmeath and realise the benefits that could accrue to Galway and Roscommon.”
Asked by reporters about opposition to the greenway from some farmers along the proposed Athlone to Galway route, he replied: "I’ve been talking to various TDs in the area, and I’ve (met) delegations about it.
"We’re going to use - I hope - persuasion so that the project can go ahead in one form or another. I’ve talked to the farmers and we’re looking for a compromise," he said.