Gosford Forest Park will be getting an injection of around £600,000 to regenerate and invigorate the attraction – with work due to start as soon as.
Gosford is one of the major forest attractions in Northern Ireland and Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council has been working hard with Forest Service and Outdoor Recreation NI (ORNI) over a number of years to consider how the park can be revitalised and reach its full potential.
A master plan process began in 2014 to create and develop proposals for the forest park – and now phase one is about to begin.
Funding to the tune of £480,000 has been secured through the Targeting Rural Poverty and Social Isolation (TRPSI) programme administered by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) to develop a network of 16kms of walking and cycling trails, with council providing the additional funds.
Designed by Pete Laing, who is one of the most prestigious trail designers in the UK, these trails will include something for everyone and will be disability friendly.
Whether walking, running, cycling or horse riding the network will maintain the natural connections between existing paths and continuity with the environment.
The contract for the work will be carried out by Euro Services.
“We are delighted to announce that we have received this significant grant which covers 80% of the cost of phase one and will act as a catalyst for the long awaited regeneration of the historical Gosford Forest Park,” commented Lord Mayor of Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon, Alderman Gareth Wilson.
“We want to get a head start on this new venture which will perfectly supplement the development of the fantastic play park constructed three years ago, which sees families flocking to the Forest Park on a regular basis.
“We are hopeful that when this first phase gets under way it will open up more opportunities for funding in the future so we can realise the full potential that this wonderful attraction has to offer.”
Forest Service Chief Executive Malcolm Beatty said: “Our forest parks are an outstanding and valuable natural resource. Anyone who has been to Gosford will understand why it is so popular with visitors from Co Armagh and beyond.
“This partnership with Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council allows us to develop the forest in a way that is open to all and yet sympathetic to the natural environment.
“It is an investment which will encourage even more people to explore, experience and enjoy Gosford.”
Council hopes to present the full master plan detail and economic appraisal to council in March.