Afforestation Programme

Part of Ministerial Statements – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 1:15 pm on 2nd March 2020.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 1:15 pm, 2nd March 2020

In recent years — predating me — the Forest Service has been engaging better with the community. For years, it was just about the trees and not about the people who were benefiting from it.

The Member mentioned Hillsborough, and the biggest problem in Hillsborough is that we are attracting twice as many people as was predicted. The number of people who want to come to those facilities is phenomenal. I was recently in south Tyrone — Brantry — and saw the wonderful new paths that have been created there, which are being well utilised by members of the public. One thing that really encourages me is the number of disabled people who previously could not use the paths but now can, as the paths have been made disabled-friendly so that people can travel around those forests. That has been a huge success.

Many people engage in mountain biking in forests, and, while it is a sport that I would not necessarily recommend, because people sustain a lot of injuries, people get real enjoyment from it, and Forest Service has been more facilitating in recent years on that front.

In the summertime, there are youth camps in some of our forest parks, and young people spend a number of days there. What better place could they be in than in that natural environment, enjoying the biodiversity and the beautiful rivers that run through our forest parks and seeing all the wildlife. I want to encourage that so that more young people get out into our forest parks. They need to be a resource for all of our community. We are building towards that, but there is more work to be done.