Tomorrows Visitors Podcast Episode 6 with Colin O’Neill, Colin Glen Trust.
Colin Glen – Making new tracks!
In this episode I talk to Colin O’Neill, Chief Executive of Colin Glen Trust and Leisure. Colin has been in this role approximately 10 years and during that time he has overseen significant developments in terms of tourism, development of the natural and built environment bringing about social and economic growth.
What’s on Offer?
The Forest Park and its amenities are situated on the Stewartstown Road in West Belfast no more than 7 minutes from the M1 connecting Dublin to Belfast and Belfast on through the West link onto the M2 into the North Coast. The Forest Park is on a 200-acre site with a number of tourism amenities and facilities including a 9-hole golf course on the Old Dunmurry golf course site which in 2020 went from 50 to 600 members. Other leisure facilities include the Skytrak which is a high-ropes and a low-ropes course and a climbing wall, a 3G Dome for indoor football five aside and seven aside football pitches, Laser Tag, Team Building games, Archery and indoor gym membership and the opening of the Gruffalo Trail in 2016.
In the last three years the organisation has adopted a 3-phased approach to development: in 2019 they opened the TopTracer driving range; in 2020 they opened a 3G Dome for indoor football and games; and in the summer of 2021 the Trust will be opening Ireland’s first ever Alpine coaster toboggan, “The Black Bull” which is 565 metres in length. In addition, there will be 2 zip lines: the Forest Flyover 300 metres and the River Rapid 700 metres zipline.
The Trust is also updating signage throughout the Forest Park to help manage visitor pressure and visitor flow and upgrading a 5km mountain bike trail. The Trust has also acquired a Land Train which is like a Land Rover with two carriages which will take visitors to various drop off points within the Forest Park.
What is the short term impact?
By the end of quarter three, 2021 Colin estimates that the turnover will be in excess of £1.5 million and by 2022 that the Forest Park will have over 400,000 visitors per year. Colin believes there is a groundswell of opinion to discover the island of Ireland – visitors are looking to get off the beaten track and there is a demand for exploring culture and heritage. Managing visitor flows and protecting the environment are critical to the success of tourism within the wider region and the trust is keen to explore how to optimise technology to manage visitor pressure and to spread the benefits of tourism beyond the Forest Park..
What are the longer term plans?
Longer term ambitions include working with other partners like the Belfast Hill Partnership to develop a Greenway linking call and land to the Belfast Hills out to Newtownabbey and back to the North Shore of Belfast. If completed, combining this with the Ulster Way would create a 51km circuit incorporating Belfast Hills, Belfast Lough, Belfast City Centre and Lagan Valley.
We also discuss the development of a new visitor centre and dormitory / bunkhouse style accommodation at the top of the Forest Park. Finally, looking to the future Colin is keen to embrace augmented reality and virtual reality technologies to develop animated cultural and heritage packages.
To find out more about Colin Glen go to www.colinglen.org