Work has started this week to develop Knockmany Forest, a few miles outside Augher, as part of investment in the site made possible through funding of £265,000 provided by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; Sport NI and Mid Ulster District Council.
The Council is working to deliver the capital project in partnership with Eskra Community Association and the Forest Service, which will develop Knockmany Forest as an outdoor facility hub with the aim of promoting and developing participation in sport and outdoor physical recreation.
The investment will lead to improved recreational trim trails, site access, signage and paths, together with improved visitor facilities in a brand new building containing meeting spaces, kitchen and toilets.
Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Sean McPeake welcomed the investment in the area, saying, “The importance of forests and green spaces in providing ‘on their doorstep’ outdoor recreational opportunities for the local community, and consequently the direct benefits that this brings in terms of improvements in health and well-being, social capital and the protection of our natural resources, cannot be underestimated.”
“Once complete, these capital works delivered through a genuine community led partnership approach will increase provision for sports and outdoor recreation. They will act as a platform to create social, recreational, tourism and economic benefits for the Mid Ulster area. Eskra Community Association are to be commended for the many voluntary hours they have spent to bring this ambitious project to fruition.”
Paul Donnelly, Director of Rural Affairs Division in DAERA expressed his delight in being involved in the development of Knockmany Forest. “This initiative fits well with the priorities set out in the Department’s Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Framework and is an excellent example of collaborative action to deliver benefits at a community level”.
Sport NI Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown added: “Northern Ireland boasts a rich variety of outdoor spaces and Sport NI is delighted to be investing in projects like this through the EBA Outdoor Spaces 2020. Facilities like this are vital in helping communities to connect to the natural environment through sport and physical activity.
“Every day, National Lottery players are helping people across Northern Ireland enjoy, engage and excel in sport and we look forward to seeing these new trails help more people in the Tyrone area get active and get involved.”
Forest Service Chief Executive John Joe O’Boyle said, “I am delighted that the work is now underway to develop excellent new facilities here at Knockmany forest. This is a great example of how partners working together can progress projects of this nature to deliver a living, working, active landscape that can be valued by all and particularly local communities. We have every confidence that our partnership with Mid Ulster District Council underpins what can be created at this wonderful forest asset here at Knockmany.”
Thanking all those who have worked so hard over a number of years to bring this project to construction stage, Gerry McCaffrey, Chairperson of the Eskra Community Association said, “We look forward to its completion by early summer. Thank you to our main funders Sport NI and DAERA, and to the Council who have committed match-funding and ongoing support for the project. This project will open up a great natural resource, not just for Eskra Community Association but for a large number of other voluntary groups as well as the wider public.”
Knockmany Running Club is one of the groups that will benefit from the improvements, and Monica Mahoney, Club Chairperson said, “We are absolutely delighted that work is about to commence on this long-awaited project. We look forward to delivering a number of new activities and events that the new and upgraded facilities will provide for. The wider community, as well as visitors to the area, will also benefit from the improved access to this great natural beauty spot at the gateway to the Clogher Valley. Thank you to everyone involved in this project.”
It is anticipated that the capital works will be complete by the start of the summer 2019.
(L-R): Julie McCann, Sport NI; Chair of Mid Ulster District Council, Councillor Sean McPeak, and Ciaran McLaughlin, DAERA on site as work starts to develop Knockmany Forest, a few miles outside Augher, as part of investment in the site made possible through funding of £265,000 provided by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs; Sport NI and Mid Ulster District Council.