Anglers have said it is a “disgrace” that vehicles, including those with blue mobility badges, will no longer be permitted to drive onto the lakeside trail at Loughgall Country Park.
Up until now, anglers paying to fish at night or those who hold blue mobility badges have been able to pre-book stands and park their cars at them.
However, Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council, which began upgrading the path a number of weeks ago, have said this will no longer be possible for health and safety reasons.
The work, which is still ongoing, will see an upgrade of 2.5km of the Lakeside trail, including installation of visitor panels and maps, as well as markers and signage.
One of the main features of the work is the raising of sections of the path – another move that has caused consternation among anglers who say it will be difficult for those with a disability to access.
However, a council spokesperson said the decision was taken following a topographical survey to “alleviate flooding …ensuring accessibility”.
Angler Desmond Johnston, a member of Loughgall Lake Anglers’ Association, said car access had been available for the past six years, “without causing any injury to pedestrians and without any issue at all”.
“The vast majority of us that night fish target carp or pike and we carry an insane amount of equipment and this would be impossible for most of us to carry especially those of us who have disabilities,” he said.
“As far as I am aware no other reasonable adjustment has been made … to address this concern such as offering to bring disabled anglers round on a buggy with a trailer as was the case before car access was granted.
“We anglers honestly feel as if we have been totally blindsided by Loughgall management and ABC councillors responsible for overseeing the running of Loughgall especially as we pay a lot of money to the council to be able to fish the lake and I would say we are one of the most profitable groups on the lake.”
Fellow club member Trevor Fryers said many anglers have fridges which they run from their cars and that with the new path there is a steep drop down to the pegs at some points.
Another member Chrisy Moffett, who is 34 has been fishing at the lakes for the past 15 years, said: “The council have said there are certain pegs for disabled anglers but carp travel and feed at specific areas and you want to be able to go where the fish are.
“I don’t feel they have taken anglers into consideration at all in these works. It’s a disgrace. The flooding could have been sorted by proper drainage.”
A spokesman for ABC Council said some anglers had raised concerns in relation to the height of the paths adjacent to some fishing stands.
“A health and safety site visit was carried out on Thursday, April 20 to review access to fishing stands on the section of trail that has been completed,” he said.
“Fishing stands 1 – 50 are now open for pedestrian access only. Disabled access is provided via fishing stand 40. Further access improvements will be made to fishing stand 15 over the next two weeks.
“Works continue on site to upgrade the trail from fishing stands 51-100 which will remain closed for the duration of the works.”
The spokesperson added a survey was also carried out that identified stands which are no longer safe and that these have been closed off and are due to be removed in a phased approach over the next couple of months.
He added: “Health and Safety have raised concerns in relation to vehicles accessing the lakeside trail and have instructed that vehicles are not permitted entry on to the trails. Trails are only to be used by pedestrians and not designed for public vehicle use.
“Day and night fishing remains available within Loughgall Country Park. However, access to fishing stands by vehicles is no longer permitted.”