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New riverside route invigorates recreation and regeneration in Gilford

The second phase completion of the £250,000 Gilford Riverside Trail project has transformed a derelict and under-utilised section of the river corridor into a quality multi-use walking and cycling trail.

It has provided a new first-class outdoor recreational amenity that will help improve the health and wellbeing of local people.

Lord Mayor of Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon, Councillor Mealla Campbell welcomed members of Gilford Community Forum, teachers and pupils from Gilford PS (Craigavon) and St. John’s PS, Bannvale Special Education Centre service users and staff, funding body representatives from DAERA and SOAR along with elected members to the official opening of this new section of the trail on Thursday.

She praised the efforts of all those who had played a part in bringing this project to fruition and acknowledged that its completion has the potential to transform lives, commenting: “This new amenity will be a game changer for the local community, and will hopefully motivate more individuals who lead sedentary lifestyles to increase their physical activity level and enjoy the health benefits that regular exercise brings.

“It’s long been our ambition to see this section of riverside trail extended and enhanced so that the recreational value of this wonderful environmental asset can be fully appreciated.

“Creating a riverside trail was first identified as a viable project in the Gilford Village Plan 2012.

“Today we come together – community, council, funders and key contributors – to celebrate its successful completion. Well done to all involved!”

The completion of this second phase of works on council-owned land has created a scenic riverside trail that stretches 845 metres and connects Bridge Street and Gilford Community Centre to the attractive Woodlands Park, passing the iconic Gilford Mill building along the way.

In addition to creating a short section of walkway over the remains of the old millrace and constructing a new footbridge across the millrace, the council undertook associated works to enhance the trail including landscaping, installing street furniture, lighting and interpretative panels.

The second phase has been completed thanks to £250,000 in funds allocated by SOAR’s Local Action Group. This project was part funded under Priority 6 (LEADER) of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs and the European Union.

Chair of SOAR ABC Roisin McAliskey added: “This project has been completed to an exceptionally high standard, and is exemplary of how funds from SOAR’s Rural Village Renewal scheme can be used to support the implementation of local village plans.”

Open to the public since July, the new trail is already proving to be a popular destination for walkers, runners and cyclists.

Welcoming completion of the trail, Jerome Burns, Contracts Manager, Southern Rural Affairs Division at the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) said: “This trail has been completed as part of a suite of village enhancement measures financed through the Village Renewal strand of the Leader Rural Development Programme.

“It provides a great opportunity for everyone to enjoy the many benefits of outdoor activity, and it is an excellent example of how DAERA is delivering on its vision of a ‘living, working, active landscape valued by everyone.”

Given its proximity to Gilford Community Centre, this marvellous amenity set in an attractive riverside setting greatly complements the centre with its excellent indoor and outdoor facilities including a climbing wall, trim trail, picnic tables, pump track, canoe landings and beginners’ canoe slalom course.

The council acknowledges with thanks the co-operation of the owners of Gilford Mill, Karl Asset Management, which enabled this project to proceed along with The MWA Partnership Ltd, Landscape Architects and A.G. Wilson Ltd.

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