The blocking of public access to Woodburn Forest “totally defeats Mid & East Antrim Borough Council’s Corporate Plan”, a walking club has said.
Commons Rambling Group has hit out at a move which has seen barriers erected at entrances to Woodburn Forest.
Organiser William Bell said the group objects to earthen banks which have been put in place recently at the Paisley Road and Councillor’s Road entrances.
He indicated that a disabled teenager who uses a wheelchair who joined the group for the first time on Sunday had to be lifted over one of the ditches by members to enable him to participate.
A statement issued by the club said: “The Ramblers Group has become very popular with increasing numbers of the public meeting on a Sunday to explore and enjoy the forests and countryside .
“Sadly, however, entrances into the forest have been blocked or obstructed in some manner to prevent public access.
“Over the forthcoming weeks and months, members of the Commons Ramblers Group will be lobbying the appropriate governmental departments to ensure the public are afforded rightful and safe access to the Woodburn Forest.”
A spokesman for Mid and East Antrim Council said thatWoodburn Forest is owned by NI Water.
NI Water said: “NI Water is aware of a number of incidents of vandalism, fly tipping and unauthorised vehicle access at the Woodburn Forest site. As a result of this, NI Water has erected earthen barriers at access points on Paisley Road and Councillor’s Road in order to ward against this.
“NI Water does not wish to prevent members of the public from accessing the forest; however, our priority is to discourage those intent on using the area for unlawful activities.
“There is parking adjacent to Woodburn Presbyterian Church adjacent to Lower Middle South reservoir.”
and a car park in the vicinity of North Woodburn reservoir which can be used by members of the public if they so wish.