Work on the Dark Sky Observatory in Davagh Forest, near Cookstown, took another step forward with Mid Ulster Council’s development committee agreeing to proceed to the funding application stage for phase 2, with ratification by the council expected at the end of this month.
Earlier this year a funding investment of £500k from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Rural Tourism Scheme under the Rural Development Programme 2014-2020, was announced for the development.
Members of the committee heard at their meeting on Thursday night that the next stage was to prepare and submit the full application, to DAERA before January 31 2019. In order to complete the full capital application all procurement and planning must be obtained.
The new star-gazing experience, to include a visitor centre, complete with a virtual reality exhibition and telescope, is being developed by Mid Ulster District Council at a total investment of over £1m.
To be sited close to the ancient Beaghmore Stone Circles, at the foot of the Sperrin mountains, the facility is scheduled to be launched and opened in February 2020, and will give visitors a unique opportunity to experience the night sky without light pollution.
The council hopes the observatory and associated leisure facilities will give visitors an emotional appreciation of the forest’s natural resources and outdoor recreation facilities in addition to a learning experience.
Catherine McCallum, Director Rural Affairs Division, DAERA, told the Mail earlier this year that the ‘Dark Sky Observatory’ would act as a driver for encouraging rural tourism, and attract tourists to Mid Ulster.