The Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) has handed over ownership of Colin Glen Forest Park to the Colin Glen Trust. The NIEA, as part of the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, have delivered a Community Asset Transfer of the forest park and golf course. The lease confirming the transfer was finalised for 999 years.
Speaking at the event, NIEA Chief Executive David Small said: “This substantive community asset transfer is ground breaking. It provides a wonderful local exemplar for the kind of innovative solutions that can be delivered by government departments to ensure the benefits derived from public assets are maximised for the enjoyment for all.
“As such it is a vibrant demonstration of what modern government, working in partnership with a local group, can achieve for both community and public good, with commitment to invest in social enterprise growth to increase sustainability in the community sector. Colin Glen is a magnificent natural resource and community asset for the area, and it has evolved in recent years under the stewardship of the Colin Glen Trust.”
Following the Colin River, Colin Glen Forest Park and golf course stretches along the Belfast Hills in the southwest of the city. It includes some 200 acres of scenic woodland, grassland, waterfalls and pathways.
Mr Small added: “When a community comes together and takes ownership, it can have a transformative effect on a space. Today, Colin Glen Park is a real focal point for the wider area. It is a place of tranquillity and activity. There is a sense of pride in what has and is being achieved, and optimism for the future.
“When the opportunity became available for the trust to draw down multi-million pound funding to develop the recreation and tourism potential, further helping to secure the long term future for the site, the department was very supportive of the trust’s vision.
“The trust, since their establishment, have a proven track record of enhancing the facilities available to both the local community and visitors from further afield.”
Colin O’Neill, the Chief Executive of Colin Glen Forest Park, said: “This is a tremendous endorsement by NIEA of the very positive role of the park and its contribution to west Belfast and the wider community. It’s the start of a new era for all of us.
“The length of lease gives us the security we need to push ahead quickly with the exciting investment plans our board has shaped for the further development of the incredible natural amenities available for local people and visitors to experience and enjoy.”
David Raymond, the Colin Glen Trust Chairman, a community-based charitable organisation which advises and oversees activities at the park, added: “It’s been our strategic objective for some considerable time to take long-term responsibility for the future development of the park’s vast natural resources. Our aim is to realise its enormous potential and to ensure its long-term sustainability for the entire community.”