Gildernew opens walking routes in Fermanagh
Minister for Agriculture and Rural Development, Michelle Gildernew MP, MLA has opened a series of walking routes within the forests of west Fermanagh.
DARD Forest Service and Fermanagh District Council, two of the main partners in the development and operation of the Geopark, have been working together for the past two years in developing the new walks.
Speaking at the event the Minister said: “When I introduced the Forest Service ‘Recreation and Social Use of Forests Strategy’ last year I was keen to realise the full potential that forests offer. I asked my Department to develop working partnerships to secure a more diverse range of facilities and attractions for the enjoyment of present and future generations.
“One year on, I welcome what has been achieved, with walking trails now in place in forests such as Ballimtempo, Carrigan, Belmore, Big Dog as well as Ely Lodge along the shore of Lower Lough Erne. All of this is consistent with the aspirations of the new Forestry Act 2010 and, in particular, the duty to promote and encourage recreation in our forests. Key parts of the Act, including this general duty, became law earlier this month.”
The Minister concluded by saying: “Evidence shows that using forests for walking and relaxing contributes to people’s physical and mental wellbeing and it’s not just for the committed walker. There is also great scope for educational visits and I know that this is a key component of the Geopark ethos. It is also important that such facilities are developed in the West, ensuring equality of treatment for rural communities.
“This will encourage a wide range of people to make use of our forests ranging from young people to tourists. I want everyone to enjoy the fantastic environment that we have all around us. This development does not stop today. Forest Service and Fermanagh District Council are currently developing a further nine walks and I hope to see these completed by next year.”
Fermanagh District Council chairman, Councillor Stephen Huggett added: “The successful completion of these walks is the result of effective partnership working between Fermanagh District Council and the Forest Service. Forest Service is a key stakeholder in the operation of the Geopark and we look forward to working with them on future initiatives. We hope that schools, youth groups, communities and individuals take the time to explore these walking routes and, through our interpretation, also learn a bit more about the unique and amazing landscapes that form the Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark.”