COLIN GLEN Forest Park continues to go from strength to strength with new tourist attractions about to come on stream.
And building on this success the Housing Executive are now funding a Social Enterprise development post at the Colin Glen Trust, with £30,000 being invested for one year to help business planning. The funding is to increase the sustainability of the Trust and maximize its business potential as a major visitor attraction in West Belfast.
Speaking to the Andersonstown News, Colm Fanning, who has taken up the new post, said: “My post has been funded by the Housing Executive for twelve months, which was done through their social enterprise scheme. These schemes are set up to have an impact on the communities that the Housing Executive service.
“Last year alone we had 265,000 visitors coming through the park. The Gruffalo Trail has recorded record numbers coming through our gates.
“You will see car registrations from all over parked here, people have travelled over from England to visit it. Following the huge success of the park’s Gruffalo Trail, Colin Glen Trust has been awarded the rights to the Stickman Trail, which will be developed if new funding can be sourced, it’s really exciting for us.
“We have had visitors from Thailand, Australia, Malaysia, South Africa, America and Canada to name a few, there’s something unique about what we have especially for families.”
In the past the park has faced criticism due to anti-social behaviour, however, with hard work this has become a thing of the past.
Colm said: “We are trying to change the reputation of the park. It is here and operating seven days a week for families and the community. We want people to take ownership of it and that’s why we have a broad range of activities and packages available for people.
“St Patrick’s Day was huge for us. We had 3,200 people coming through and it absolutely lashed that day. People wanted something different where they could spend a few hours surrounded by nature with a real family and fun atmosphere. Throughout the summer we welcomed various Sure Start groups, nursery schools and summer schemes.”
He added: “Belfast City Council are investing in the park and it’s all about offering new opportunities for sport and recreation. We want people to get out and enjoy nature.”
Work is about to begin on a new Alpine Coaster – where people can travel on rail through the park – the first in Ireland.
“It’s really exciting, it’s something like a monorail system where you’ll have a car on a track and you can go all round the park. We also have the longest zipline in Ireland, a 16 bay driving range and during the summer we had Camp Colin where hundreds of children camped out over the night in marquees, teepees and tents at the urban park.”
Not content with all this there is now a £12 million masterplan in place which includes a sixty bed residential complex and a new visitors complex.
“We want this park to be the major tourism hub in West Belfast,” said Colm. “With the new rapid transit system in place it will make it much easier for people to get here and then back into the city centre afterwards. West Belfast really is a major force for tourism in the north of Ireland.”