Exciting times in Drumahoe as work continues apace on a major new district park in the heart of the Faughanside village, which is scheduled to open next summer.
Construction is well underway on the new park which will comprise new play facilities, a synthetic multi-use games area (MUGA) and changing rooms in a corridor between Drumahoe Primary School and the derelict former Faughan Valley High School next door.
Facilitated by a £1,000,000 grant from the Big Lottery Fund under its ‘Space and Place’ programme, the new green park will run from the Drumahoe Road, between the two schools, with a wooded path down into the old Faughan Valley pitches, opening these up for community use for the first time in years.
A local consortium, led, by Derry City and Strabane District Council, and including, the Drumahoe Community Association, the Waterside Neighbourhood Partnership, the Tullyally Community Partnership,the Education Authority (EA) and Drumahoe Primary School, are thrilled to see regeneration work underway finally get underway.
“We’re massively excited when you think about the facility that we’re standing in this morning,” said Drumahoe Primary School Principal, Mr. Terry McMaster.
“It’s a dream, a vision, that’s starting to be realised for the community.
“We’ve a state of the art children’s play park, a car park, a full size MUGA linking the old Faughan Valley pitches down below. It’s a dream come true.”
Mrs. Hilary McClintock, the former Mayor and current DUP Alderman for the Waterside, speaking in her capacity as a member of the Drumahoe Community Association, said the new recreational space would help tackle the issue of dereliction, which has incongruously blighted the otherwise picturesque rural village for years.
She hopes the development will kickstart a rolling regeneration of Drumahoe that will ultimately see the old Faughan Valley High School site - disused for over a decade - brought back into use.
“We have the Desmond Factory site that has been vacant for so many years,” she said.
“We have Smith’s chemists up on the Glenshane Road. We have Faughan Valley High School, an eyesore, so from a community point of view people are thrilled to see something positive; something physical happening in this space as well. It’s a big win for us.”
Mr. McMaster explained that following the closure of Faughan Valley High School back in the mid-2000s the old Western Education and Library Board gifted its playground space to his school.
Logistically and financially, however, the local primary school was in no position to manage a major regeneration programme on top of fulfilling its educational mission.
That’s when the consortium stepped in and helped drive the school’s and the community’s joint ambitions.
Colin Kennedy, the lcoal council’s Park Development Manager, said the possibility of opening up the new corridor was facilitated through an application to the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘Space and Place’ programme a few years ago, which was administered by the Community Foundation of Northern Ireland
“The consortium worked extremely hard, working with other schools, looking at the wider community benefit. We put in a significant application and that is about shared spaces, looking at places that are derelict, under-utilised and uncared for and bringing them back into community ownership. We were very fortunate to be one of three grant recipients and secured £1m so we are very very proud of that,” he said.
Mrs. McClintock vowed that the new park was only the beginning.
“This is phase one. The community association is already having discussions about what future use might be, and looking at masterplans for the area but that’s all at a very early stage yet.”
Mr. McMaster agreed: “Thisis phase one. We would like to see other things developed down the line, maybe getting trails going through the grounds. There’s huge potential for what’s there.”
Mr. Kennedy added: “It’s a shared space and about inviting people who might not necessarily choose to come to Drumahoe or dwell anytime in Drumahoe, to bring them to this space so they can realise the true potential.”
Drumahoe Community Association member, Hilary McClintock (second from left), Derry City and Strabane District Council Park Development Manager Colin Kennedy (third from left) and Drumahoe Primary School Principal, Terry McMaster (second from right) with fellow members of the Drumahoe District Park consortium.