The South Shore in Massachusetts hopes to get a major tourism boost with a proposed Irish Heritage Trail, stretching from Weymouth to Plymouth.
The South Shore Irish Heritage Trail proposed by the Scituate/ West Cork Sister City Committee will highlight sites of interest to Irish Americas and visitors from Ireland.
Backed by $1,250 in seed money from the Irish government, the hope is to win participation in a South Shore Irish Heritage Trail from communities that boast the highest concentration of residents with Irish roots in the entire United States. An astounding 40 to nearly 50 percent of area residents can trace their heritage back to the Emerald Isle.
The proposal from the Scituate/ West Cork Sister City Committee will be unveiled at a May 20 Scituate meeting to which political and civic leaders from eight South Shore towns have been invited.
“One model for this project in the extremely successful Wild Atlantic Way in Ireland,” said Siobhan Hunter of the Scituate/West Cork Committee.
“We hope to do something similar here showcasing sites with connections to Ireland and the immigrants who flocked here in pursuit of better lives.”
Brenda O'Connor, heavily involved in the proposal, told IrishCentral "Like the Wild Atlantic Way, our Trail will be a long-distance trail, running along the Atlantic coast from Boston to Cape Cod.
"In time, there is potential that this trail grows and links with the Boston Irish Heritage Trail and may even eventually begin in Portland, Maine, and end in Washington D.C., where an Irishman designed the White House. Our goal is to celebrate, educate, and anticipate the plethora of contributions made and still being made to our area by the Irish born or those of Irish heritage."
Among the early discussed stops along the trail:
- The former Hull summer home of celebrated Irish-American John Boyle O’Reilly, a poet, journalist, and civil rights activist. The family of President John F Kennedy also had links to the town.
- The Cohasset memorial to the 1849 shipwreck of the Brig St John in which nearly 100 Irish immigrants perished. The shipwreck of the Brig St. John was the worst shipwreck in the history of the South Shore.
- The Scituate Maritime and Irish Mossing Museum which chronicles a local industry begun by Irish immigrants in which many generations of Scituate young people participated.
- In Scituate Harbor, there is a monument with the words of the Easter Rising Proclamation engraved upon it. It is one of the only such permanent remembrance in the United States.
- Marshfield’s proposed Irish Path which may incorporate bronze sculptures inspired by events in Irish history.
- Plymouth Public Library contains the only dedicated Irish Collection of any city or town on the South Shore.
The West Cork Committee will invite participation from South Shore towns at the May 20 breakfast in Scituate. One lure is possible funding from the Irish government through its Emigrant Support Program. The committee has applied for a $75,000 grant to fund planning and development of the Trail including an interactive web page to guide visitors to Irish-themed sites in the South Shore towns.
“Participating communities will be asked for a modest amount, perhaps $3,000 to help get the Trail up and running,” said Hunter.
“Not only would this be an asset to all those who live here regardless of ethnicity but the side benefits for tourism could benefit each community in a substantial way.”
Early estimates are that upwards of 700 people could visit the South Shore Trail yearly, a number based on 1% of the roughly 70,000 residents with Irish roots. That number could grow significantly, according to the Scituate committee, with visitors also expected to patronize local hotels and restaurants.
The Committee is also launching a Scituate-Ireland student exchange program this year with 15 to 20 Scituate High School students scheduled to attend classes in March 2021, in the West Cork town of Skibbereen. A group of Irish youngsters will visit Scituate schools this fall. The Scituate students will pay their own way with private financial aid available funded by the Committee.
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