An investment of €96,700 will be made in improving both the access and the environment of Belleek Woods, a meeting of the Ballina Electoral Area committee was told this week.
Peter Gill, Horticulturist with Mayo County Council, told the meeting that in 2007 and 2008 a study was carried out on the woods in association with Coillte and a development plan was put forward for the future of the woods. Several elements of enhancement were identified as part of the study — which was sent to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food — which would cost in the region of €600,000 to €800,000 to implement. He went on to say that the funding for the whole project was not available, but they did get grant aid for two of the elements of the development, the silvicultural enhancement and the recreational facilities to provide basic wheelchair access to the woods, with €24,000 being allocated to the former and €72,600 to the latter. The silvicultural enhancements will see supplementary planting of trees with cone and berry producing trees being planted for the native squirrel population, with the aim of increasing that population. There will also be the removal of invasive species by cutting and spot spraying to ensure the growth of native species of trees, and 2,000 metres of fencing repairs to the northern half of the property.
The improvements to the recreational facilitates will see the provision of two new wheelchair car parking spaces, new car parking and route signage, new gate entrance, taking out steep gradients on the main route to make it more wheel chair accessible, upgrading of the pavement on the main route, provision of a suitable surface in a new picnic area for all users, and the provision of raised edges along the pathways and lake using logs.
Mr Gill told the members that work was ready to start on the recreational aspect of the project straight away and the silvicultural enhancement later in the year as it was seasonal work. The news was greeted warmly by all the members of the Ballina Electoral Area present at the meeting.