By Debbie McKelvey
The nomination is a fitting tribute to Councillor John Hanna who, before his sudden death in a tractor accident six weeks ago, had devoted much of his time into a campaign to have the canal restored and back in use.
Sustrans, the charity that works to enable people to travel by foot, bike or public transport for more of their every day journeys, is asking the public to choose their favourite part of the National Cycle Network and the Newry Canal has been shortlisted in the shorter routes section along with nine other routes across the country.
Ten popular long distance sections have also been shortlisted and Sustrans is asking bike riders, walkers and everyone who uses the Network to vote for their favourite in both categories.
Local Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said: “This is a prestigious national award from Sustrans and winning it would be a major boost for one of our most beautiful natural assets in the local area, used daily by cyclists, walkers and sightseer’s.
“I know my colleague the late Councillor John Hanna was one of the army of people who had a passion and campaigned tirelessly to get the canal back into regular usage.
“I commend the work of the legacy councils for their efforts to restore the canal and also the hard-working volunteers of Newry and Portadown branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland (IWAI).
“I would encourage people to visit the Sustrans website and take just a few moments to vote for the Canal which is a finalist in the ‘favourite ride under 30 miles’ section. Winning this award would increase the profile of the canal, helping towards its public awareness and further restoration,” she added.
The move by Sustrans is part of celebrations to mark 20 years since the network was developed by the charity and it described the Newry waterway as a canal side route, rich in wildlife, that takes you away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and where at Moneypenny’s Lock you can explore the history of the canal.
The long distance routes range from the Cornish Way between Land’s End and Bude in the South, to the Oban to Campbeltown route in Scotland.
Malcolm Shepherd, Sustrans Chief Executive, said: “The National Cycle Network is 20 years old in 2015 and we know many people have their favourite sections.
“We want to give people the chance to vote for the route they love the most, whether they use it every day for their commute or have just used it on holiday.
“The shortlist covers the length and breadth of the UK showing how the Network has grown over the years.”
The network boasts over 14,000 miles of traffic-free and quiet on-road walking and cycling routes right across the UK and routes that allow people to explore their local area and provide a better way of getting around.
Nearly five million people make the most of this incredible Network every year - from commuters and school children to dog walkers and weekend cyclists and there are lots of different people going to and from different places, and who use and love the National Cycle Network.
To vote for your favourite route, you just need to visit www.sustrans.org.uk/vote and then make your choice.
The vote will run until the end of August with the winners announced in September.