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Gildernew promotes Forests Open Day

25 September, 2008

Sinn Féin Agriculture and Rural development Minister Michelle Gildernew MP MLA is to throw open the gates and waive entrance fees to Forest Parks across the North this Sunday.

The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development's Forest Service is holding a Forests Open Day on Sunday September 28 to coincide with the National Trails Day in the South.

The focus of the Open Day is to encourage all sections of the community to visit forests, experience the natural forest environment, and enjoy some healthy exercise along a variety of walking trails, led by a forest guide who will point out features of interest. There will be guided walks at Tollymore, Gortin Glen and Glenariff Forest Parks.

There are more than two-million visits to forests in the North of Ireland every year, with visitors enjoying eco-trails and nature walks, orienteering, horse-riding, cycling, caravan and camping and even car rallies. Announcing details of the Forests Open Day, the minister said:

"I am pleased to be able to offer the public free entry this Sunday to our Forests and I would encourage as many people as possible to come along and enjoy a day in the forest. 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.

"I am pleased that the Open Day coincides with the National Trails Day in the South, which similarly encourages people to enjoy the social and health benefits of walking and hiking. Clearly, there is scope to develop this concept further and we will be liaising with our colleagues in the South to develop the National Trails Day idea in future years."

The minister also revealed plans for a Forest Recreation Strategy, to be published next spring. She said:

"Forests here in the North offer great potential to maximise recreation, tourism, rural development, health and educational opportunities. The New Strategy will create a framework within which these opportunities can be developed."

The minister underlined the important role of partnerships which will be a key feature of the new strategy and its implementation: "Forest Service already works with other organisations in providing recreation in many forests and the new strategy will place a strong focus on developing and expanding partnerships to unlock the potential that forests offer." ENDS

Notes to Editors

  1. There are nine forest parks in Northern 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 Open Day supports the strategic aim of providing greater recreation provision in our forests.

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