TWO of Tyrone’s most popular forest parks are getting set for an influx of visitors following with the imminent opening of major developments representing a £500,000 investment.
It is hoped that the work at Knockmany Forest Park and at The Brantry near Eglish will help to draw tens of thousands of new visitors annually to both areas.
The opening of new outdoor facility hub and trails at Knockmany scheduled for Saturday was cancelled due to Storm Dennis, while this weekend the official opening of additional facilities at The Brantry will take place.
Both projects have been spearheaded by Mid Ulster District Council in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs, the Forest Service and local community groups.
One of the flagships of the Knockmany development is a new ‘Meeting Places’ disabled changing facility. It will be the first such facility in Mid-Ulster and will ensure fully inclusive accessibility to those with severe disabilities.
Gerry McCaffrey, chairman of the Eskra Community Association, says the development there is part of an ambitious vision to see the forest being fully utilised.
“Along with Knockmany Runners, our vision is to see Knockmany develop into a centre in which people of all ages can enjoy the outdoors in a healthly, clean and safe environment,” he said.
“This new development is going to be a great asset for the local communities and we’re delighted that it has finally come to fruition.
“It’s also hoped that the new amenities here will ensure that local schools and community organisations from right across Tyrone can avail of what’s on offer at the forest.
“We are already finding that the numbers coming to use the forest have increased and it’s envisaged that tens of thousands of people will come here annually to avail of the new facilities.”
The investment at Knockmany, which totals £300,000, has seen the construction of improvement recreational trim trails, site access, signage and paths, together with improved visitor facilities in a brand new building containing meeting spaces, kitchen and toilets.
The capital project has been completed by Mid Ulster Council in partnership with Eskra Community Association and the Forest Service with the aim of promoting and developing participation in sport and outdoor physical recreation.