Despite being one of Northern Ireland’s top seven country parks, and often regarded as the area’s flagship tourism destination, Dungannon Park is not seen as “strategically significant” enough to be given motorway signage, a Council committee has been told.
It is understood negotiations are still continuing between the Council, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board (NITB) and Transport NI (formerly Roads Service) in a bid “to try and convince them” to have both Dungannon Park and the Hill of the O’Neill signposted from the M1 motorway.
According to minutes of the committee meeting, the Hill of the Neill is now eligible for motorway signage.
And, while Transport NI is aware that substantial investment is planned for Dungannon Park, the committee members heard it was not in a position to issue the signs until that project is completed.
In December, the TIMES reported how Dungannon Park had attracted a staggering 200,000 visitors during the year, which represented an increase of 50%.
As such, Dungannon Park and Lake recorded the biggest increase in visitors of all country parks in Northern Ireland.
It is now listed as the North’s seventh most popular country park, up three places from the previous year.
The upsurge came after a 48% increase in visitors the previous year, meaning that the amenity is now more popular than Tollymore Forest Park, Scrabo Country Park, Castle Archdale Park, and Carnfunnock Country Park.
Dungannon Council’s Parks Manager, Nigel Hill, praised the high standard of the park and its facilities.
“The quality of the facilities we have on offer ensures that local visitors and tourists from further afield keep returning to Dungannon Park”, said Mr Hill.
In a statements issued to the TIMES on the issue of signage, a Department for Regional Development spokesperson said: “TransportNI has assessed the existing direction signage to Dungannon from the Motorway and considers it to be adequate to direct visitors..
“At a recent meeting the Department confirmed to Council and Tourism NI officials that a review will be shortly undertaken to consider providing additional dedicated signage in Dungannon closer to specific attractions.
“The Council and Tourism NI were also advised that if they wished to provide further information to the Department to support their request for Motorway signage to the attractions, TransportNI would reconsider the matter.”
Dungannon’s public spaces were boosted further in December when it was announced that a new urban park was planned for derelict land at Railway Park.
The Council agreed to buy the site in a move which was welcomed by local councillors BarryMonteith (Independent) and Dominic Molloy (SF)