COMMUNITIES Minister Deirdre Hargey has opened an eagerly anticipated new community park and sports zone in the Divis area. 

The £1million facility has transformed a strip of land, known locally as the Back Path, which was previously a hotspot for antisocial behaviour and was once used to store bonfire wood for the so-called anti-internment bonfire in the area.

The Back Path facility represents a £951,000 investment by the Department for Communities, through the Building Successful Communities (BSC) initiative.

It now includes a running track, gym and Multi-use Games Area (MUGA). There is also play equipment, a seating area and a community garden. An improved access ramp to the nearby Westlink footbridge has also been encompassed as part of the scheme.  

Commenting on the opening of the facility, Ms Hargey said: “I am delighted that the funding from my Department has delivered the new park and sports zone here at the Back Path for everyone to enjoy. It has totally transformed this area and is a major community asset that local people can be proud of.

"The delivery of this scheme proves how working in partnership with the local community can deliver physical, economic and social regeneration to this previously rundown area.

“This transformation will bring considerable benefits through increased positive activity and well-being across all age groups making this a safer, more welcoming area.”

Following its opening, ownership of the facility has been handed over to Belfast City Council.

Lord Mayor Councillor Kate Nicholl said: “This once derelict site has been completely transformed. It’s a wonderful addition to the city, offering a wide range of amenities that people of all ages and abilities within the local area can enjoy. It’s a shining example of what can be done to inject life into abandoned spaces in the city.”