€33,000 available for Greenway café
A €33,000 spend on refrigeration equipment and furniture to turn Streamstown Station on the greenway into a café has been agreed by members of the council’s Economic, Enterprise and Tourism SPC.
It was agreed at a meeting in Council Chambers last Friday morning, where director of services, Barry Kehoe, explained the council had been “trying all year to get someone to go in and operate the café, without success”.
Renovations have already carried out on the station’s storehouse, which is ready to be opened as a café, while the old ticket office has been turned into toilets, though more work is needed.
The aim of the venture is to transform the station into a destination and tourism hub “in its own right”.
“Any of the members who get on their bikes and go cycling or walking out the greenway between Mullingar and Athlone will come to Streamstown station,” said Mr Kehoe. “It was an old station on the Old Great Western Railway, where the rail line split originally, one line going to Tullamore, and other to Athlone.
“We’ve been developing that over the last couple of years through various grants and funding sources, we’ve managed to renovate the old storehouse and it’s ready now to be opened as a café, but it’s short a little bit of an investment,” he said. “We’ve renovated the old ticket office into toilets which are important amenities on something like the greenway.
“The local community have put in a good playground, along with an orchard and display of old farmyard equipment.
“It’s a nice destination between Mullingar and Athlone, but, we’ve been trying all year to get someone to go in and operate the café without success. In fairness, the footfall wouldn’t be huge and it’s largely weekend and fine summer day footfall – you won’t get much other footfall at any other times, “ he admitted.
“It’s hard to get somebody to take on a café under those circumstances but it’s our view that if we can get it up and running, it will become a destination in its own right. People will make the effort to get there from Mullingar and Athlone, and it could grow into a successful hub as others have on the Waterford greenway.
“In order to attract somebody to operate it, we need to invest in some equipment in the building, like refrigeration and an oven, internal furniture, and some for outside. We’ll have to get a contractor then to fit that and deal with a few snags that were identified by the environmental health officer.
“What we want to do is bring it to a point of where it’s ready to open,” said Mr Kehoe, who added that the structure of the new greenway bridge in Athlone is now in place, while there will be more work carried out for cycle tourism alongside Athlone Castle and the Shannon between now and the first quarter of 2023.
“We hope that all that investment will bring more people, more tourists, and more locals on to the greenway. This (Streamstown station) is required as a point of interest, and stop point between Athlone and Mullingar.”
John Geoghegan, president of Mullingar Chamber of Commerce, said it needed investment to bring it up to the standard.
“This isn’t just a business here, it’s tourism and hospitality – we’re promoting an agenda around the greenway. If €33,000 gets someone in there, gets a business off the ground and maybe a couple of staff working, I think we’d be foolish not to support it.”
Calling it a “no-brainer”, Cllr John Dolan said the Streamstown Community Group had done some “serious” work there, “probably a lot more than €33,000”, and seconded the proposal.
Cllr Emily Wallace agreed: “This is a county SPC and investing in what Streamstown has done is of benefit to both Mullingar and Athlone.” Cllr Aengus O’Rourke said the investment “would stand for several years”.
“We’ve always said it, if we’re not investing in our greenway and points along the way to make it what we want it to be over time, which is a fully serviced route, then we’re at nothing,” said Cllr O’Rourkle. “It’s definitely worth doing and it would be great to see all the voluntary work rewarded with a café.”
Cllr Bill Collentine pointed out that as Streamstown is roughly halfway between Mullingar and Athlone, “it’s a very small investment to help tourism, and could yield big results”.
The proposal will now go before the next meeting of Westmeath County Council for ratification.