THE first downhill mountain bike trail on Cavehill is to be opened later this month following a landmark agreement between Cavehill Mountainbike Club and Belfast City Council.

The ‘Middle Trail’ will be officially opened by the Lord Mayor on October 11 and will be the first dedicated natural off-road trail in the city.

The Middle Trail has been constructed by hand and has been built to protect the local biodiversity, using environmentally sustainable techniques to ensure that it co-exists in complete harmony with the surrounding park land and forest.

The club also worked closely with a local tech organisation CORA to develop and implement a QR code based trail maintenance and health and safety application to monitor the record and co-ordinate all health and safety inspections of the trail.

Bern McClure, Chair of the Cavehill Mountainbikers said: "Mountain Biking is recognised across the Europe as a very fast growing sport for all ages and is one which should be promoted as part of the general health and wellbeing of our community.

"Cavehill is used by mountainbikers of all ages from six to over 60. It is a healthy sport enjoyed by hundreds of mountainbikers on a daily basis. It improves stamina and fitness and for this council group to propose banning such activity would be contrary to central and local government initiatives

"The Middle Trail will be managed by the club in close co-operation with the Council and other partners as a pilot to facilitate any future trail network of other mountain bike trails in the park.

"New signage has been erected throughout Cavehill Country Park for walkers, cyclists, runners and tourists to ensure that all users can enjoy the facilitates.

"Cavehill is a shared resource for the people of Belfast for recreational and health benefits in line with the Council's own stated objectives and mountainbiking is a legitimate recreational activity enjoyed by thousands of Belfast citizens. 

"Local mountainbikers are passionate about conserving Cavehill for future generations.

"We have the support of the Cavehill Conservation Campaign Group and over the years we have engaged in joint environmental and litter clearing exercises to ensure that Cavehill is kept clean and tidy."