Exciting plans are afoot in Northern Ireland to replicate the successful trail initiatives instigated in Wales and Scotland. Funding is currently being sought to build 26 trails across the country encompassing everything from family fun trails, to singletrack epics and downhill courses, and
cash-permitting, work could commence early next year.
Mountain Bike North submitted a proposal to outdoor umbrella organisation CAAN – Northern Ireland Countryside Access and Activities Network – back in 2001. CAAN brings together all groups and bodies that have an interest in, or involvement with, countryside recreation. One of its responsibilities includes the development of a network of off-road cycling routes.
Following the proposal, CAAN appointed a consultant to produce a Strategic Review of Off Road Cycling in Northern Ireland, and a steering group was established with representatives from Forest Service, Environment and Heritage Service, Mountain Bike North, Northern Ireland Cycling Federation, Ulster Cycling Federation, Local Authority Countryside Officers, the Northern Ireland Tourist Board and Sustrans. The study produced approval for access to a number of forests, country parks and National Trust properties for the development of mountain bike trails.
The figure for the total implementation of the plan was costed at £834,000, and an overall vision for the strategy reached:
Attractive rural areas in which both visitors and local people can actively enjoy and explore networks of routes on cycles, away from roads and where there are specialist facilities for those who participate in more adventurous off-road cycling.
The strategy proposes 15 venues for the construction and provision of family leisure trails, but more importantly for mountain bikers, it seeks to provide four managed downhill courses, designed by the riders themselves, and seven cross-country singletrack routes with lengths of over 20km. The proposed venues for the new trails are:Downhill
- Cave Hill Country Park (tbc)
- Springwell, Binevenagh Cam area
- Lough Navar
- Loughry College (XC circuit)
- Gortin Glen
The situation at the moment is that funding applications have been submitted to Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Environment and Heritage Service, Department of the Environment and Sports Lottery. It is hoped funding will be secured early in 2003 and a full-time Project Officer can be appointed to begin development of the routes.
Although the venues have been proposed, the route details have not been agreed. CAAN want mountain bikers to come forward and share the development of the trails, to ensure the end result meets the needs of the riders. CAAN hope that mountain bikers of all disciplines will come forward to share their ideas, plans and dreams for future trails. The more support from riders that CAAN can show potential funders, the more likely the plan is to succeed.
For more information, or to get involved, please contact Clare Wright at CAAN on 028 9038 3892 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For updates on the proposal in Northern Ireland, visit mtbrider.com.