ARMAGH City and District Council has appointed a team to develop plans for a forest park at Darkley, Armagh I can reveal.
Outdoor Recreation NI has been selected and, according to local SDLP Councillor Thomas O’Hanlon, it is long overdue.
“Darkley is at the most southern point of the council area and for far too long the area has been neglected by the various statutory agencies,” he said. “However if you look at the area, it is surrounded by forestry, lakes and some beautiful natural scenery.
“Over recent months, Forest Service have put out a call for projects on their lands where the community and statutory agencies would be willing to come on board and make the forest lands more accessible to the public.
“Council officers have been exploring a number of options but, in order to bring the scheme to the next level, a comprehensive development plan is needed and I am delighted that Outdoor Recreation NI have been appointed to do just that.”
Mr O’Hanlon said he wanted to see the natural recreational tourism potential of the area explored to the fullest.
He added: “I want to see the lands owned by Forest Service opened up more to the public. There is no reason why a partnership could not be formed between Armagh City and District Council and Forest Service to develop and manage this area for the good of all the community.
“In recent months we have seen places such as Slieve Gullion Forest Park developed and it is extremely popular.
“Right across the north, Forest Service has proven they are up to opening up their grounds where partners are involved. I want to see parking provided, designated walkways and nature trails identified and consideration should be given to tracks for bikers.
“In the coming weeks, Outdoor Recreation NI will be binging back their proposals before the council and I would hope the local community will have an opportunity to comment and further influence the proposals before a final submission is made to Forest Service for consideration and, indeed, funding.”