Plans have been announced to extend a major walking trail in Co Armagh.
The funding (£49,500) was secured through the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs’ Challenge Fund.
The popular circular route follows off-road trails, quiet country lanes and forest tracks from Newry around the volcanic landscape of the Ring of Gullion Area of Natural Beauty.
It’s understood the monies will allow the local authority to progress to the next phase of the plans which will include planning applications for projects between Slieve Gullion lake to Ballard Road, a summit loop in the lower hills of Carrive and the redevelopment of a closed section of the Ring of Gullion Way.
A scoping and development project will also take place for two new outdoor recreation opportunities in the direction of Forkhill River.
Members of the Enterprise, Regeneration and Tourism (ERT) Committee were asked to agree to a recommended Service Level Agreement with Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (ORNI).
In a report to ERT members, council officers said the proposed partnership with ORNI would help them “achieve their outdoor recreational potential”.
The report read: “Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland is a not-for-profit organisation who make it easier for people to responsibly enjoy the outdoors.
“ORNI proactively engage with local councils in Northern Ireland to establish Service Level Agreements. These allow them to target their dedicated expertise to enable councils to achieve their outdoor recreation potential.
“The community trails work is similar to this in that there is a period of development, enjoyment and bringing them to planning to make sure projects are shovel ready.”
Meanwhile, Sinn Fein councillor Roisin Mulgrew, who proposed the plans, said the project was a “good news story” for the district.
She said: “The work that has been done to Slieve Gullion has been a game changer and every time I walk up that mountain I meet people from all over Europe.
“It is just superb the work that’s being done on the trails already and I welcome the fact that this report has been brought forward and the walking trails are going to be extended.”
SDLP Cllr Terry Andrews shared the positive sentiments expressed across the chamber, saying Slieve Gullion had proved to be a “wonderful facility” for the district.
“I welcome these projects and I’d like to pay tribute to everyone who has been involved in bringing this forward which will make it more attractive for visitors from all parts,” said Cllr Andrews
“But I was also wondering if there’s any other schemes envisaged elsewhere across the district with outdoor recreation?”
Jonathan McGilly, Assistant Director of Enterprise, Employment and Regeneration, said that there was “a whole programme of activity” under the council’s AONB Action Plan.
The Slieve Gullion plans are expected to be completed, pending planning approval, within the current financial year.
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