A LOCAL councillor has welcomed progress on the highly-anticipated City Cemetery visitor centre.
Workers were busy this week fitting the roof on the new state-of-the-art centre, which is part of a £2.3 million heritage project.
The development is part the Falls Park and City Cemetery Masterplan, which has seen almost £6million worth of investment delivered in the past decade.
Reflecting on the Masterplan’s progress, Sinn Féin Councillor Steven Corr said: “With the bespoke zinc roof going on the interpretive centre, it’s just another milestone in this massive undertaking which we started a decade ago.
“During that time almost £6million has been invested into both sites, and has included everything from the Interpretive Centre being built, upgrades to graves, and water fountains and features being brought back to their original glory, the 3G pitch in the Falls Park, and three grass pitches being laid out for local soccer teams.
“The days of wading through muck at Féile events is gone because we have a new state-of-the-art events space, which is one of the biggest in the city. We have a brand-new children’s playpark, which has doubled in the size of its footprint. The biggest outdoor playground in Belfast is now up at Whiterock, where we’re also getting a new bicycle hub.
"We have a community garden, new changing rooms, and we’re just about to embark on the next stage of the Belfast Forthriver Greenway, which is going to include lights and create a spine that will run from the Whiterock Road to the Falls Road.
“You have all these massive investments, and the other ones that are still being worked upon are the new leisure centre, and the ones that I would like to see finished are the gate lodge into the Falls Park, and the Foxes Lodge at Brittons Parade. I’m going back to ask Council to look at those, and we currently have a funding application in to try to turn the Foxes Lodge into some kind of community facility.”
With space for burials in the City Cemetery at a premium, Councillor Corr expressed hope for the development of a columbarium, which would allow people to lay their loved one’s ashes following cremation.
“It means that if the cemetery is full up for traditional graves and burials, we can have a columbarium for generations to come to have somewhere for their loved one’s remains to rest and repose,” he said.
While the Falls Park and City Cemetery still suffers from some antisocial behaviour, Councillor Corr said the social impact of Masterplan has seen the sites transformed from veritable no-go areas to busy community assets.
“One of the biggest things to plague these sites has been anti-community behaviour, and that has been for decades,” he stated.
“If we had continued to allow the City Cemetery and Falls Park to be run down then that would have manifested, escalated and got worse and worse. School kids now cut through here, and although the cemetery itself is full it’s alive with life and it’s good for people’s mental health locally.
“As for the Falls Park, you can’t get a nicer park to walk through. The amount of teams and the amount of people in is amazing. When I was a kid it was virtually deserted. Now it’s packed.”