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New Improved Town Park in Balla Opened by Taoiseach and Minister of State Doyle

An Taoiseach Enda Kenny, T.D. and Andrew Doyle, T.D., Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, with responsibility for forestry, opened the new improved ‘NeighbourWood’ at Balla, Co. Mayo, yesterday (Monday).

The project to develop the woodland was undertaken by the Balla Town Park group, with funding from the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine under the NeighbourWood Scheme. The Scheme, administered by the Department is designed to provide accessible opportunities for recreation and regular exercise while creating and developing woodlands for the benefit of current and future generations, thereby highlighting the social benefits of forestry to local communities.

Taoiseach Kenny highlighted the importance of forestry commenting “Forestry has an important contribution to make in the continued growth of our economy. Last month, we launched Realising our Rural Potential: The Action Plan for Rural Development, and forestry is an important part of that plan. There is also an important social benefit when our forested areas can be opened-up to visitors and local communities as an amenity for recreational purposes.” The Taoiseach also referred to Brexit during his visit noting that every effort will be made to maximise and facilitate trade with the UK, as it will remain an important market for Irish timber products, and added that continued investment in processing technology and servicing customer needs will help keep Irish exports competitive.

Welcoming the development of the Balla woodland, Minister of State Doyle added that neighbourwoods “allow for young and old to experience nature and the environment, to see and enjoy forests and the rich variety of plants and wildlife that exist in these rich habitats. In all cases, what makes a woodland a ‘NeighbourWood’ is the way in which it is perceived by local people. NeighbourWoods are an invaluable community resource and part of the local fabric of life and sense of place.”

The aim of the Balla Neighbourwood Project was to bring the existing woodland to a better standard for recreational use through resurfacing the paths, putting in place informative signage and carrying out maintenance programmes once dead trees and undergrowth had been cleared. The project will also raise awareness of the woods as an important natural heritage and landscape amenity area for residents and visitors.

Minister of State Doyle outlined the economic importance of forestry to Co. Mayo, stating that “production in Co. Mayo is expected to reach 113,000m3 this year, an increase of approximately 8% over the previous year’s figure. In 2017 the total value of timber extracted from Mayo forests is estimated to some €3.5m. It is also estimated that forestry in the county supports some 700 jobs.” He also stated that the aim, at national level, is to increase national forest cover to 18% by 2050 and was encouraged to note that “Afforestation levels over the past three years have steadily increased as more land owners see the benefits of forestry either as an attractive and viable land use option or a long term investment with the returns coinciding with later life.”

Minister Doyle concluded by congratulating the Balla Town Park on their work and efforts in maintaining and developing the woodland.

Editors Notes

Suitable NeighbourWood projects can vary in size and location, from large forests in the countryside to small woodland areas in and around villages, towns and cities.  A neighbourwood can be a stand-alone amenity, or can be linked with other amenities and attractions in the area, such as public parks, historical buildings, visitor attractions and walking or cycle routes.  The common theme is that the woodland should be freely open to the public to enjoy and experience nature and the environment.

The Scheme, which is administered by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, consists of three components:-

  • NeighbourWood Establishment’ which provides funding towards the creation of new NeighbourWoods on open ‘greenfield’ sites;
  • NeighbourWood Enhancement’ which provides funding towards the silvicultural enhancement and improvement of existingwoodlands which are proposed for development as neighbourwoods; and
  • NeighbourWood Facilities’ which provides funding towards the installation and/or upgrade of appropriate recreational facilities within woodland areas submitted under NBR Establishment or NBR Enhancement. Typical neighbourwood facilities would include car parking, walking and cycling routes, information signage and waymarkers, nature trails, seating and picnic tables.

Further information about the NeighbourWood Scheme is available on the Department’s website at:

http://www.agriculture.gov.ie/forestservice/grantsandpremiumschemes2015-2017/

To view this Press Release as a PDF: DAFMPR 24/2017 (pdf 386Kb) 

Date Released: 21 February 2017