Council to allow local residents have free access to its managed parks
Mournes Councillor Willie Clarke has welcomed the decision that local residents should be able to access their preferred Council managed forest park for free.
However, added that tourists should contribute, to the management of these facilities.
He said: “It has been agreed at the Strategy Policy and Resources Committee meeting that charging will be introduced in all Council managed Forest Parks.
“The caveat is that all households in the district will have one free car-parking permit to access the park of their choice, the free access for residents is an issue I have spear-headed since 2020.
“Within the district, the Council manages the recreation and tourism provision at Kilbroney Park, Delamont Country Park and Slieve Gullion Forest Park and have taken over the management of Castlewellan Forest Park.
“Collectively more than one million visitors per annum visit these amenities with an increasing number of visitors from outside the district.
“We believe it is important that local citizens have free access to their nearest public green spaces within council management, the development of which have been greatly assisted by local ratepayer’s contributions through the rates process.
“It is proposed that an online system of dealing with permits will be procured and in place eventually.
“However in order to deal with permits in the meantime it is proposed that local residents of Newry Mourne and Down can gain free access to a park of their choice through their existing permits or by showing their driving licence or another form of photo ID.
“They will then be given a coloured disc to permit free entry to the park of their choice – this will cover the time period of December 2023 up to April 2025”
Cllr Clarke added: “Council green spaces are integral community facilities accessed and used by many from this council area and beyond.
“Sinn Féin support free access to our Forest Parks for local Households.
“Ratepayers are already paying for the forest and country parks they use, allowing each household to obtain a free permit while collecting revenue from visitors.
“This will ensure Council parks will continue to enhance the visitor experience.
“Sinn Fein recognise that tourists need to contribute to the management of council green spaces.
“What is needed is a reasonable daily charge and permit arrangements to allow this to happen.”