As work on a new children’s play park in Gilford draws to completion, there has been disappointment that it has been targeted with vandalism before its opening.
Although the council has described the incident as ‘nothing too drastic’, they are nonetheless urging the local community to see the park as their own and to help look after it and keep it clean and litter free.
Councillor Glenn Barr pointed out that this was an area identified as lacking in play facilities and said: “This is absolutely disgraceful.
“A photo call promoting the new play park was due to take place this week, but had to be cancelled. If this vandalism continues local children will lose out.”
The park is being constructed as part of the Council’s Five Year Strategy for Play Facility Provision, under which Laurencetown, Leitrim and Gilford were all identified as in priority need. This autumn a new play park designed by Groundwork NI in conjunction with Playboard NI will open in each of these areas.
The completion of the Gilford park will see a derelict site used for dumping, transformed into an attractive asset for the whole community.
A council spokesperson said: “The Council carried out extensive consultation in Gilford on the location of play facilities and this site at Castleview topped the poll. It was provided in direct response to a request from the local community. A pedestrian access across the car park and steps from the Castle Hill to Castleview footpath are due to go in shortly when land and legal matters are completed.
“The new play park will take a few weeks for ground conditions to settle before it can be opened to the community. We are asking the local community to be patient and not to use the play area until it is officially opened. Any damage to the play area may delay the opening.”
The park has been designed around the concept of natural play and uses natural materials.
“Children benefit from access to natural environments. Planting, logs, and boulders can all help to make a more attractive and playable setting for equipment, and planting can also help attract birds and other wildlife to literally bring the play space alive.
“In densely populated urban areas with little or no natural or green space, this more natural approach can help soften the hard urban landscape, and it is also beneficial in rural areas where children can often have very limited access to natural features and materials.”
The park is one of a number of projects made possible by funding provided by the Down Rural Area Partnership under the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme.