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New Recreation Officer for Mourne Forests


The outdoor recreation potential of the Mourne Forests received another boost this week with the appointment of a new Recreation Officer employed by Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland.  The newly established post will be responsible for providing a positive visitor experience for those enjoying the new outdoor facilities within Castlewellan Forest Park and nearby Bunkers Hill. 

The past 18 months has seen a series of impressive outdoor recreation facilities within both sites.  Mountain biking and walking trails have been developed within the Forest Park together with the refurbishment of the Peace Maze, whilst nearby Bunkers Hill has seen the addition of an innovative Play Trail and multi-use walking and cycling trails. All of the facilities have been developed by Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland in partnership with Down District Council and Forest Service Northern Ireland.

To ensure the sustainability of the new facilities, Down District Council through a Service Level Agreement with Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland, has taken on the responsibility for their management and maintenance.  To ensure an effective approach, the council will also work with other key partners including Forest Service Northern Ireland as the land owners and Mourne Heritage Trust who will continue its management role of the mountain bike trails.

The Chairman of Down District Council, Mr William Walker stated that “Partnership has been key to the successful development of the new facilities within the forests and therefore this is the most effective way to ensure their ongoing management.  We are looking forward to working with our partners to ensure those visiting the forest have an enjoyable time.”

The new Recreation Officer, Jim Brown, a native of Essex has recently made the Mournes his home.  A keen outdoor enthusiast, he is looking forward to the challenges of his new role.  Jim enthused, “The Mourne Mountains and the forests within them are truly spectacular and I’ve really enjoyed discovering the spectacular countryside by bike and on foot.  It is very exciting to be able to play a part in managing these key attractions for both the local community and tourists.”

Jim will be based in Castlewellan Forest Park and will be responsible for the strategic management of the outdoor recreation facilities, however everyday roles will include maintaining the walk trails, bike wash, play equipment and liaising with Mourne Heritage Trust to effectively maintain the mountain bike trails.  Day to day visitor engagement will also be a key element of the role. Jim also hopes to establish a volunteer programme so members of the local community can get involved in the management of the facilities.  

The future of the forests remains bright. In the short term Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland has secured funding to install play structures within both Tollymore and Castlewellan Forest Parks, and is working with the Council to consider the potential development of further visitor facilities within these sites, particularly in regard to the future use of the buildings.