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Gildernew publishes proposals to grow recreational potential of Forests

25 November, 2008

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA has outlined proposals for the future development of recreation in forests.

The minister was announcing publication of a consultation paper on a draft Recreation and Social Use Strategy, which seeks views on the role that forests like Tollymore, Glenariff and Florence Court can play in the provision of recreational opportunities.

The minister said:

"Forests here in the North offer great potential to deliver recreation, tourism, rural development, sport, health and educational opportunities. The draft strategy published today by Forest Service, sets out a framework within which these opportunities can be developed."

"The demand for recreational use of forests is increasing and diversifying and I want to see forests being used more for recreation, particularly by rural communities."

There are more than two million visits to forests in the North every year, with visitors enjoying forest trails and nature walks and the quiet forest environment. Some forests provide eco-trails, orienteering, cycling, horse-riding and caravan and camping opportunities. They also regularly host a range of organised sporting events such as cycling and car rallies.

The minister has also recognised that Forest Service cannot maximise the full range of opportunities on its own. Partnership working with others, both commercial and with other public bodies, will enable much more to be achieved.

She said:

"Forest Service already works with other organisations in providing recreation and other opportunities in its forests. The new strategy will place a strong focus on developing and expanding partnerships to unlock the potential that forests offer. Promoting the recreational and social use of forests will benefit users and visitors in terms of personal health and wellbeing, and will provide opportunities for economic development through tourism and events."

The consultation period will run for a period of 12 weeks until 6 February 2009.

The Forest Service Recreation and Social Use draft strategy can also be accessed at

Note to Editors

  1. There are nine forest parks in the North of Ireland which provide car parking, picnic sites, a range of walks and attractions. In addition, there are over 100 forests that provide some recreational facilities, including woodland walks.
  2. Forest Service is developing a Recreation and Social Use strategy, in consultation with stakeholder groups. The Forestry Strategy entitled "A Strategy for Sustainability and Growth", published in March 2006, outlined the policy context for forestry in the North of Ireland. These were the sustainable management of existing woods and forests and a steady expansion of forest cover to increase the many diverse benefits that forests provide. It included a specific aim to continue to provide access to forests and to realise the potential of forests to be used for recreation.
  3. The Forest Service manages 76,000ha of forest land, broadly comprised of conifer plantations, open upland areas, broadleaved woodland, open space within forests and recreational and amenity areas. Management conforms with sustainability criteria, and as a result forests provide a balance of economic, environmental and social benefits to the people of the North of Ireland.

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