ORNI were commissioned to prepare an Outdoor Recreation Strategy and 10-Year Action Plan for Mid and East Antrim Borough Council. By adopting a strategic approach as part of a wider vision from Council, this Strategy and Action Plan is to ensure outdoor recreation fulfils its potential for increasing citizen health, well-being and prosperity, as well as attracting visitors to enjoy the stunning and varied natural environment of the Borough.
At present the landscape of Mid and East Antrim presents rich opportunities to enjoy the outdoors, however, the coastline, hills, mountains, lakes, rivers and forests are largely underutilised. Outdoor recreation could be a major asset to communities, the economy, and improving social inclusion and the health and wellbeing of people. These benefits align with the 5 strategic themes of MEABC’s 15-year Community Plan which are 1) Good Health and Wellbeing; 2) Sustainable Jobs and Tourism; 3) Our Environment; 4) Community Safety and Cohesion and; 5) Progress in Education.
The outcome of this Strategy is an Action Plan intended to direct the growth, development and management of outdoor recreation in line with Council’s strategic objectives and inform areas where notable investment should be focused. To form such recommendations the objectives were to:
- Consider the strategic importance of outdoor recreation to policy contexts;
- Analyse the existing outdoor recreation provision and providers;
- Analyse the barriers to outdoor recreation participation and future development;
- Recommend how existing provision can be further developed and enhanced, and;
- Identify new sites and cost-effective outdoor recreation opportunities that the Borough can offer.
The scope of the study extends to all District Electoral Areas (DEAs) within MEABC formed through the amalgamation in 2015 of the three former councils namely, Ballymena, Larne and Carrickfergus.
Three key themes emerged through the consultation process that need addressed holistically to enable the Borough to reach its full outdoor recreation potential. These include:
- Enablers of Success – refers to the enablers (both resources and structures) required in MEABC to ensure a high quality and consistent experience for all outdoor recreation users;
- Product Development – refers to both the outdoor recreation infrastructure required to do an activity and the supporting visitor services and facilities that enhance the experience;
- Marketing and Promotion – refers to the wide range of media required to heighten the awareness of the local population and visitors to MEABC of the opportunities that exist for taking part in a wide range of outdoor recreation activities.
An Action Plan, setting out 20 key recommendations under the headings above over the next 10 years was developed.