Devlin calls For Adequate Support For Castlewellan Forest Park
LAURA Devlin, constituency manager for South Down MLA Seán Rogers, who tabled a motion on behalf of the Castlewellan and Kilcoo Branch of the SDLP to conference earlier in November to ensure DARD provides adequate funding for the future needs of Castlewellan Forest Park, has publicly nailed her colours to the mast and declared she fully supports the forest park as a key part of business and community life for Castlwellan and the wider area.
Laura’s motion said: “That this conference calls on the Department for Agriculture and Rural Development to ensure that our Forest Parks are adequately maintained and if the amenity element of Forest Parks transfers to Local Government that sufficient funding is provided.” (Castlewellan and Kilcoo Branch of the SDLP).
“As a child, I spent a great deal of time in Castlewellan Forest Park. My main memories are of the Glass Houses, the woodland paths and the arboretum… all of which are now almost unrecognisable. But why?” she asked.
“Over the years, there has been a lack of spend and investment in the amenity side of our Forest Parks. Back in the 60’s, 70’s and early 80’s significant monies were spent on our parks, but however, this investment has been declining since it was franchised out and became the Forest Service.
“From this point on, a big enough emphasis was not placed on the amenity side of the parks. Our Parks have massive
potential – tourism potential which hasn’t yet been realised.
“The greenhouses and arboretum in Castlewellan Forest Park are the most outstanding in Ireland and possibly in Europe. Until very recently they were a real mess having deteriorated badly, but recent improvement of the glasshouses has taken place and I welcome this, but much more needs to be done.
“We have seen the benefits of the introduction of the mountain bike trails to Castlewellan. This arboretum could again be a jewel within South Down’s tourism industry. For this reason, I would encourage the migration of the amenity element of the parks to Local Government and would hope that the appropriate funding comes with this.”
Seconding this motion Margaret Ritchie MP said: “The Arboretum is the only one of its kind on the Island of Ireland and over the last year we have been successful in having this fact more widely understood and appreciated by various government agencies.
“The local campaign group ARC are now working on establishing a sustainable future for the glasshouses in the arboretum and for the revitalisation of the arboretum itself. The horticultural importance of the arboretum is without question, but the challenge is how we sustain and improve it now and into the future.
“I, along with my SDLP colleagues will continue to do all we can to support ARC and the local community to build a solid base for the future of the arboretum and the glasshouses. The arboretum is not just a horticultural treasure but a great asset to the local community.”
This motion was given full support by the SDLP conference and is now party policy.