Council unveils plans to develop walking and cycle route

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The council is moving ahead with plans aimed at increasing use of the Newtownabbey Way walking and cycle route.

At their monthly Leisure Committee meeting, members approved in principle the ‘Play the Newtownabbey Way’ project, which could see play features and exercise equipment developed along the pathway, initially on the section near Mossley Mill.

The aim of the initiative is to encourage more local residents and visitors to use the route, and to attract more people to the various facilities available at Mossley Mill, particularly the museum, coffee halt and restaurant.

Ursula Fay, the council’s leisure and culture development manager, told the meeting that the aim of ‘Play the Newtownabbey Way’ is to engage the community, attract visitors, promote opportunities for active and healthier lifestyles and provide fun and fitness for people aged 0 - 90.

Among the council’s plans are the creation of ‘fairy villages’ in wooded areas to engage the imagination of children using the path; development of ‘bookstops’ - free outdoor libraries where people can borrow or leave books; the creation of nature trails, expansion of biodiversity and environmental programmes and the introduction of fitness trails and guided walks.

There will also be ‘Tales of the Riverbank’ storytelling sessions for families and school groups, the first of which is due to take place on December 7.

Exercise equipment will also be created alongside the pathway using some of the natural features and materials available along the route.

The officer assured members that the new features will be designed to “blend into the natural landscape” and will be “sympathetic to the environment.”

The initiative was welcomed by several members, including Alderman Billy Ball, who described the project as “an absolutely wonderful idea”, and Cllr Noreen McClelland, who said: “I am very excited at the prospect of some of these initiatives.”

Cllr Lynn Frazer also voiced her enthusiasm for the plan, particularly the ‘fairy villages’ and ‘bookstop’ ideas.

Hugh Kelly, the council’s director of leisure services, told the meeting that council staff are passionate about the development of the Newtownabbey Way and Mossley Mill site and said they will continue to bring forward projects aimed at increasing user numbers.

Members agreed that staff should move ahead with the elements of the project which are achievable within existing revenue budgets, and that an update on the scheme should be presented to a future committee meeting.