Community trails are success with 209,000 annual visitors

Community trails are success with 209,000 annual visitors

22 June 2022

THE popularity of community trails established within the Newry, Mourne and Down Council area have justified the £700,000 investment channelled into creating more of them. 

Counting at the trails have recorded 208,891 visits made in the period from the end of April 2021 to March this year.

The trails – in the Drumkeeragh, Tievenadarragh, Corry Wood and Seaforde areas – have attracted significant footfall numbers since counting began to assess their popularity, according to Outdoor Recreation NI.

The not-for-profit organisation has been collaborating with the local authority to establish the network of trails since 2014.

Councillors were appraised of progress of the trails network by the body’s Executive Director, Dr Caro-Lynne Ferris, during Monday’s meeting of the council’s Active and Healthy Communities Committee.

Some of the newest trails, at Glasswater Wood, near Downpatrick, and at Windmill Hill and Lough Park, near Ballynahinch, and at Glendesha Forest, Forkhill, have been created thanks to investment of £716,000, including car parking spaces.

Glasswater Wood trail was established at a cost of £185,000, with the council bearing 15% of the costs and the rest was contributed by TRPSI (Initiatives to Tackle Rural Poverty and Social Isolation). 

The Ballynahinch trails were created thanks to a £216,000 investment, shared by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, which provided 67% of the cost, while the council paid for the remaining 33%. 

Included in the investment was a trail at Glendesha Forest near Forkhill, which cost £315,000.

The usage of the trails bodes well for four additional trails that have yet to be established, in the vicinity of Bright Gaelic Athletic Club, near Teconnaught GAC, at Tipperary Wood, Newcastle and near Inch Abbey outside Downpatrick.

Feasibility studies have been completed for the Bright and Teconnaught trails, with planning procedures anticipated to be completed by March 2023, and the trails completed within a year from then. 

Studies for the other two have are said to be nearing completion.

Ulster Unionist councillor Alan Lewis described the trails as a “great asset” for the local community but queried the date of completion of car parking expansions at the Drumkeeragh and Seaforde trails.

Dr Ferris said a few final details had to be signed off ahead of a green light from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs. 

She said that once that permission was granted the contractors could get to work “hopefully by late summer or early autumn”.