Department of Agriculture officials have promised a full consultation before taking any decision on whether or not to remove deer and rare breeds from the popular Gosford Forest Park.
The 240 hectare park at Markethill is a popular draw for locals and visitors alike.
It is made up of diverse woodland and open parkland and also contains a large collection of traditional breeds of poultry and rare breeds of farm animals – together with a herd of red deer.
It has for quite a number of years now been the venue for the Co Armagh Agricultural Show, which takes place in June, as well as a poultry fair.
But DARD has confirmed that the animals may have to be removed as part of cost-cutting exercises, and the poultry fair could also be a casualty of costs.
The Department has promised a full consultation.
But Newry and Armagh UKIP representative Adam Watt has branded the proposals “shameful” and said they should never have been brought to the table.
Mr Watt contacted Armagh I today (Thursday) to express his outrage.
He said: “This news is deeply regretful following the previously positive news that DARD has planned to add additional investment in the forestry service due to extra funds made available to them from the Department of Finance.
“At a time when we should be capitalising and improving our local attractions, this sort of decision would almost certainly rip the heart out of the park.
“Gosford Forest Park is a beautiful spot, and whilst there can be no doubt that over past few years the park has been under developed and numbers have dwindled, it still has the potential to be a success.
“I believe that there should be a public consultation carried out in the local area before any final decisions are made on this matter.
“This park is part of the fabric of our local community. It is a visitor attraction for people near and far and it should not be discarded as part of another rash DARD decision.”
Mr Watt added: “The way in which the park has been run in recent times is a disaster. Those in charge should in no doubt be better managing the money that they have to spend.
“Perhaps they should also consider getting community groups involved more by opening a Forestry Rangers volunteer scheme, getting the local community involved in ways that facilitates both DARD and the local community.
“The park is a place for the entire community. This is our space. Instead of taking from it, we should be adding to its value and thinking of ways to improve it. I hope that some common sense will prevail here.”
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