Council moves to defend canoe slalom

Local canoists on the Slalom Course at Gilford Community Centre � Edward Byrne Photography INBL20-237EB
Local canoists on the Slalom Course at Gilford Community Centre � Edward Byrne Photography INBL20-237EB

Banbridge District Council has defended its new canoe slalom course in Gilford, after it was described as ‘vandalism’ against the river.

The course was opened earlier this month by council Chairman, Junior McCrum, and Irish canoeist Hannah Craig.

But already the course, which complements the new community centre and footbridge on the site which opened in April 2012, is courting controversy.

One reader, who contacted the Leader, emailed to say, “I don’t know where the idea came from, but... can these horrible poles and lines please be removed [along with] those big rocks. This is not a help to Gilford.

“It has been changed from a peaceful river to something totally alien to the river. This council vandalism must be stopped.

“They [have] left the river bank, river and the sky in worse shape than when they began.”

In their defence Banbridge District Council argued that the slalom is one of only two of its kind in Northern Ireland and that the course will aid the town’s regeneration.

A council spokesman said, “The new 115 metre permanent flat water beginners’ slalom course and two new canoe landings located on the River Bann at Gilford Community Centre is only the second facility of its kind in Northern Ireland.

“This project has been welcomed as a valuable recreational resource for the district.

“Following extensive consultation with the Rivers Agency, this project was developed by Banbridge District Council in association with the Canoe Association for NI and Banbridge Canoe and Kayak Club.

“It was part funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure Inland Waterways under the Water Recreation Grant Programme and the Landfill Communities Fund as administered by the Ulster Wildlife Trust.

“As well as being an important sporting and recreation facility, it is anticipated the development of the river will also assist with the regeneration of the Gilford with the facility attracting canoeists and spectators from across the district and further afield.”