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Business cases have been submitted for five forests in the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area as part of DAERA's Forest Park Enhancement Scheme for rural forests.

Recently completed projects at Gosford Forest Park, Hilsborough and Gortin Glens are examples of projects supported in previous years where equipment suited to children with disabilities have been installed. Already Forest Park Enhancement projects have enabled better access by developing safe, way marked, off-road cycling/walking trails that will accommodate a wide range of users, including persons with disabilities. 

Newry, Mourne and Down Council have submitted business cases for Drumkeeragh Community Trail, Tievenadarragh Forest Community Trail, Glendesha Forest Community Trail, Glasswater Wood Community Trails & Access Enhancement Project and the Fallows Trail at Kilbroney Forest Park.

DAERA, in partnership with local councils and Forest Service, operates this scheme to invest in forest parks in rural areas to deliver on the following objectives:

  • Develop sustainable family orientated outdoor experiences in each Forest;
  • Provide an environment that is inclusive and that will aid the health and wellbeing of all who visit;
  • Increase opportunities for social engagement and interaction with the aim of reducing social isolation;
  • Upon completion attract additional visitors to benefit the local economy.

Environment and Rural Affairs Minister, Edwin Poots is producing a series of five short films to showcase the £5.7m investment in Northern Ireland’s forests in partnership with local councils through the Forest Park Enhancement Scheme. You can see the latest one below.

Minister Poots said, “Many of our forest parks have been around for well over 100 years so Northern Ireland’s Centenary Year is a good opportunity for us to reflect on the remarkable social and environmental value our forest parks provide to everyone in Northern Ireland.

“This series of short films highlights the significant investment and enhancement to many of our forest parks. To date, my Department has invested £5.7m through the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) Programme’s Forest Park Enhancement Scheme. This funding has helped to enhance and protect our forests while improved access has made them more user friendly and attractive to tourists. Building on the success of the Scheme, I have plans to support further investment of £2.2m across another 11 forest parks this year. 

“The Forest Park Enhancement Scheme is an investment in infrastructure which will help deliver my Green Growth Strategy in the years ahead by creating an opportunity for economic growth through environmental protection and enhancement.” 

The Minister continued:  “In addition to the financial investment by my Department, last year I also launched the ‘Forests for the Future’ campaign – which aims to plant 18million trees and create 9,000 hectares of new woodland by 2030, in partnership with the public and private sectors as well as citizens. Not only will this mean more green space for people to enjoy, it also boosts our fight against climate change."

He added: “As part of Forests for our Future plans I would also like to encourage eligible landowners and farmers to seriously consider planting some trees on their land under the Forest Expansion scheme and the Small Woodland Grant scheme which are currently open to application.”

 Concluding, Minister Poots said: “The pandemic has changed life for everyone and this is reflected in the significant increase in the visitor numbers to our forests parks. Our parks contribute greatly to positive physical and mental health as well as addressing important issues such as isolation, loneliness, access and health and well-being. That is why continuing to invest in them is vital and I hope the public will enjoy our forests and parks even more as we continue to develop and work on further enhanced facilities across the forest estate in the years ahead.”

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