Work is now underway to develop Knockmany Forest as an outdoor facility hub.
The development is part of investment in the site, a few miles outside Augher, 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 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 said: “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, said: “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 Northern Ireland Chief Executive Antoinette McKeown said: “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.”
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.”
It is anticipated that the capital works will be complete by the start of the summer 2019.