Exciting new plans for three local forests are to be considered by the ABC Council as it plans future development of each over the next few years.
And a meeting of the council’s leisure committee tonight (Monday) will see consideration of spending over £400,000 as part of the improvements.
The three forests in question are at Clare Glen, outside Tandragee, Darkley Forest Park and Carnagh, on the outskirts of Keady.
It was in 2014 that the former Armagh City and District Council employed Outdoor Recreation NI – via a Service Level Agreement – to develop projects for the ‘then’ Forestry Fund and because there was an interest in developing the area’s open space.
The aim wass to improve opportunities for people to enjoy the outdoors, to provide greater infrastructure and to maximise the potential of the outdoors, to regenerate towns and villages through opening up the natural environment, and to work in partnership with statutory agencies, and local community and sporting groups to embrace and protect the natural environment.
The former Armagh Council is the only one of three which amalgamated that has forest estate within its boundaries
Since 2014 council has been working with Forestry NI on the increased development of recreational and tourism options.
Outdoor Recreation NI will be making a presentation to committee tonight (Monday).
It was asked to undertake a scoping exercise of Darkley Forest. And, following a meeting with the Chief Executive of Forestry NI, the work was undertaken on the basis that future external funding could be sourced.
For that reason, last autumn, an expression of interest to SOAR was completed and Everybody Active 2020 funding also identified as a possible application.
In addition, as a result of the Rural Development Programme Tourism call in July last year, Carnagh and Clare Glen were also identified by councillors as development opportunities.
Again, Outdoor Recreation NI have carried out work in relation to both, with site assessments completed.
The biggest plan relates to Darkley, where over £300,000 would be spent.
The council is to decide whether or not to commit in the region of £100,000 to the project, which would depend upon other funding being secured.
An expression of interest to SOAR has been made for £100,000 and verybody Active 2020 funding will be applied for.
Among the proposals are multi use trails – over 4,400 metres – together with a nature play facility and greyhound gallop. A new car park and bridge over the Callan River also feature.
Close to £70,000 funding is also recommended at Carnagh.
The proposals include the upgrading of walking trails through basic remedial work, new waymarking and signage, opening up viewing areas along the trails accompanied by seating and promoting the walks through a trailhead information panel.
All previous Forest Service signage and furniture throughout the forest would be removed and replaced with new council branded signage and furniture.
The development would also see the creation of a formal car park, directly inside the main entrancem for up to 10 vehicles.
At Clare Glen, plans would include enhancing the site for children by animating the existing walk trails through the use of small wooden sculptures and the development of a small ‘nature’s play’ area.
There would also be a new signage strategy across the site, as well as additional seating and the hosting of small events throughout the year.
The Clare Glen capital cost at this stage would be just in excess of £45,000.
The leisure committee will consider the proposals tonight and listen in more details to what is envisaged.
But as is always the case, any decisions will be subject to formal approval when the statutory council sits later in the month.
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