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Hands off our Gruffalo, say families after Colin Glen vandalism

WARNING: Bernadette Devlin WARNING: Bernadette Devlin
By Ciara Quinn

PARENTS and day-care service providers say ongoing vandalism at Colin Glen Forest Park’s popular Gruffalo Trail is upsetting families who are coming to visit the attraction.

Two of the sculptures from the popular Julia Donaldson-penned Gruffalo tale were completely destroyed after they were set ablaze while others were defaced. Colin Glen Forest Park is home to the unique Trail and has visitors and families from across the city visit daily to see the attraction. Mother-of-two Nicola Marley said that it is “upsetting” for her children when their “favourite character or activity is significantly damaged or missing” along the Trail.

“I participated in a project with the Princes Trust to create a small memorial garden for victims who have lost their lives as a result of mental health issues,” she said. “A lot of hard work and time went into it, many close friends and family of the victims use the garden as a peaceful space to sit and reflect. It is sad that this has now been destroyed too. The park would be a nicer and safer place if the constant vandalism stopped.”

Another parent, Janine Belton, spoke of how the Gruffalo Trail “gives the children a wonderful experience and provides them with some learning within nature.” “However, the animal statues have been destroyed, leaving the children confused and sad as they believe that the animals were being ‘hurt’,” she said.

Bernadette Devlin, from Colin Sure Start said that vandalism on the Gruffalo Trail was impacting the learning and development of children in the area.

“We use that facility a few times a year to bring parents and our children from nought to four age range,” she said.

“It promotes the kids’ speech and language, it promotes their social interaction, it helps them learn about their environment and, most of all, it allows them to have fun. It’s local and it’s free of charge, but they are unable to enjoy it as much because of the vandalism of the statues on the Gruffalo Trail. It’s a health and safety issue too because the children like to get their photos taken with the statues, but obviously they can’t do that now. There is one near the entrance and you wouldn’t even be able to identify what it is now.

“We just want to make people aware of the impact it’s having on the families who are living in the community.

“It’s resource that we’ve had many an enjoyable outing to, and we would like to continue to do that. It has so many benefits for community, but if this vandalism continues we’ll no be able to use it. The safety of the children is paramount to us. We would be very wary of bringing families there because of the vandalism.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Séanna Walsh described those behind the destruction as “a handful of disgruntled vandals who are attacking their own community”.

“Colin Glen Forest Park is a major asset for this area, the community, council and departments are investing heavily into it and we are looking at a £10 million investment package for it,” he said.

“The Glider has really opened up the opportunity for people and families to access the park and we have a handful of youngsters who are turning up to try and vandalise it.

“The park is set to launch its latest attraction, the toboggan, soon and planning applications are in for zip lines and mountain bike trails. There are big projects planned for the park. We would ask those who behind this vandalism to stay out of it.”

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