Split over two sites, this 45km development of sustainable mountain bike trails includes Ireland’s first official downhill trails in Rostrevor Forest Park which has recently been selected as a site for next summer’s World Police and Fire Games.
With the cross-country trails through Castlewellan Forest Park also hosting the European Single Speed Championships in 2014, this project is already delivering on its potential to make Northern Ireland the next must-visit mountain bike destination in the UK and Ireland.
Euro Services Contracts Ltd, a civil engineering and trail building company based in nearby Camlough is the main contractor for the build and their Director Gerard Quinn is enjoying the challenges that this project is throwing his way.
Mr Quinn explains: “The trail building works are being completed by specialist squads at various locations throughout both sites however we are working in some difficult mountainous terrain so we have had to be quite inventive as we have progressed with the build.
“There are sections coming up in the next few weeks which will certainly require helicopter drops however as a company we relish these sorts of challenges and working out ways of overcoming the various issues that crop up.
“One of our main objectives is to ensure minimal disruption to the surrounding environment and ecology. As such, all of the trails are being constructed to highest standards of sustainability and this will certainly add the mountain biking experience on offer here once these trails open early next year.”
The Mournes Mountain Bike Trails is an initiative of Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (formerly CAAN) and is being led by Down District Council with partnership funding secured from the Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Down District Council, Newry & Mourne District Council and Sport Northern Ireland. The project is also being supported by the Forest Service of Northern Ireland. Clare Jones, Product Development Manager for Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland explained: “Mountain biking has enjoyed a real surge in popularity in recent years and despite having an ideal landscape for world class trails we have not yet harnessed the opportunities that mountain biking holds for Northern Ireland. “Now with a superb trails design from Dafydd Davis MBE and expert contractors in Euro Services Contracts Ltd, mountain bikers in Northern Ireland will no longer have to travel over the border or across the Irish Channel in search of trails that fit the bill.”
Mayor of Newry and Mourne District Council, John McArdle said: “I am delighted that Newry and Mourne District Council is involved with the mountain bike trail project and it is already clear that the purpose built trails will ensure that the Mournes area becomes one of the world’s top mountain biking destinations.” By next April, Northern Ireland will have a network of sustainable trails that will rival any others in Europe so it is no surprise that large-scale events are already looking at the Mourne Mountains as a future venue. Greg Bradley, the project’s representative for Down District Council and Newry and Mourne District Counci, said: “The World Police and Fire Games is a world event and it’s the first time it has come to this part of the world. The uniqueness of this project is that it stretches between two different council boundaries-Down District Council is project managing the construction of the trail on behalf of both councils. “We are very much a tourist reliant district. The two councils are in a ruralised environment and we are expecting thousands of new visitors to use the bike trails over the year. “It will be a world-class tourism attraction and it is a growing industry. Other regions in the UK have their own nationally recognised trails and it’s fantastic for the area that this development is happening here.” Visit www.outdoorrecreationni.com to find out more information on the Mournes Mountain Bike Trails and other current activity developments taking place across Northern Ireland.