A play frame in the shape of a tractor, in recognition of local inventor Harry Ferguson, is at the heart of a new £1.5 million state-of-the-art play park at Hillsborough Forest Park, which officially opened on Monday.
Rural Affairs Minister Edwin Poots was joined by elected representatives from Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council (LCCC) to mark the occasion. DAERA has provided just under £1m for the development through the Tackling Rural Poverty and Social Isolation Programme (TRPSI), while LCCC provided £500,000.
Also getting the first sneak peak of the new park were children from Beechlawn Special School and Peter’s Patch Nursery and After School. Beechlawn Special School pupils and teachers, alongside the local Hillsborough community, were instrumental in the design of this new facility.
Speaking at the special preview in advance of the official opening, Minister Poots said: “This new facility will be a fantastic asset for the local area and I’ve no doubt that children and adults from this community will make use of such an amazing new facility. As we continue to work our way through the pandemic, having outdoors spaces to play and safely socialise is so important and will play a massive role in keeping our children’s minds and bodies active and healthy.
“This project at Hillsborough is a top class example of how working in partnership can deliver real benefits for the local community and the fun and laughter of the children at this event only adds to that proof. I am really pleased that my Department could allocate £1 million to this project, and that Lisburn & Castlereagh City Council provided the remaining £500,000 to make sure phase one of the park is completed. Work on phase two will commence shortly and provide even more facilities for people using the park, which I’m sure will be welcomed.”
Alderman Jim Dillon MBE, Chair of the council’s Development Committee, said: “I want to thank DAERA for investing in this wonderful outdoor space and to the contractors FP McCann and Hawthorn Heights for the very high quality work they have delivered.
“This new play park represents £2 million worth of investment for children as Stage One of the council’s wider plan to develop Hillsborough Forest. A new 145 space car park and improvements to pathways and signage will make sure visiting is a pleasant experience for parents and children. We have noticed a significant increase in visitors to the forest since the upgrades have been made and we are looking forward to the development work continuing.”
Alderman Michael Henderson MBE, Leisure & Community Development Committee Chairman, added: “We have used the forest environment to create this innovative play park for children of different ages and abilities. It is fantastic to see young people here today building on their natural curiosity. The benefits of outdoor play are evident as we see the children move around the park and discover all the different ways to have fun on the new swings, slides, balance beams and play panels.
“In recognition of local inventor Harry Ferguson we have also installed a tractor and aeroplane which will be great for role play and stimulating young imaginations. I would like to remind everyone to ensure they play safely in the park and to follow good hand hygiene and health and safety practice. I would like to thank the children and teachers from Beechlawn School for helping us to design such a creative space and am delighted to see them enjoying it.”