Today at 13:00 at Causeway Coast and Glens offices Coleraine there was the first of a series of public consultation concerning the Mountsandel experience.
The meeting was led by Council officers and Doran Consulting.
There were approx 40 people in attendance and the discussion also embraced the environs close to Mountsandel :- Christie Park and Somerset forest, the lock gates and quayside, The Cutts, Mountsandel wood, the Anglo Norman fort, the famous site of the. Mesolithic dig, the river Bann and the old Bridge.
The conversation ranged back and forward for nearly an hour and whilst the majority of the people in the room were positive about developing the site there was a concern of the archaeological significance being lost amidst an attempt to include other areas in the programme. It was only natural that there was some scepticism about concerning projects that had commenced before e.g. a town museum and then they fizzle out either due to cost or other pressing demands.
There were 2 councillors in attendance at the meeting :- Cllr. Trevor Clarke and Cllr. William McCandless.
Cllr. McCandless joined in the healthy debate which was taking place :-
” Coleraine has neglected the Mountsandel site for too long. I understand and appreciate that there have been ventures in the past which sadly have produced no results but for any venture to succeed the timing has to be right and the right team need to be selected. I believe that now is the right time and we have council officers who are enthusiastic about this project, I know their enthusiasm, I have discussed it with them.
Yes, some of the criticism here today is well deserved, Mountsandel has been neglected for too long and we have procrastinated and no doubt lost opportunities, but that is in the past and we need to look to the future.
The river is the best asset which flows through our town and we do very little with it.
As for the mount itself it is barely discernible now from any vantage point due to the growth in the forest.
Whilst we must preserve the archaeological interest in this Mesolithic site, the cradle of civilisation in Ireland we must consider also the regeneration factor it could be to Coleraine. Approx 1.3 M people visit the Giants Causeway and Carrick a Rede rope bridge annually. Very few of them come into Coleraine. 500K people bypass Coleraine travelling to Londonderry from Belfast to visit Derry’s walls.
Understandable as we are doing nothing to attract them in.
The one word which has been mentioned many times here today is connectivity and this is the question, how we link it all up? I have mentioned before that I wish to see an interpretative centre in Somerset forest with a bridge across the river leading to Mountsandel site where we can have a replica site of how Mesolithic man lived and a restoration of the Anglo Norman fort. We could look at the bridge being joined possibly to the lock gates system and also appreciate the beauty of the Cutts which were hewn out of the rock by our ancestors at the time of the Plantation.
A walkway back into town along the riverside should also be explored, with a view to having a walkway to the river mouth. Ornithology is one of our fastest growing hobbies and we need to cater for this at the beds close to the river mouth where we have such a diversity of bird life.
We must capture this vision now and make it a reality.
My thanks to Rotary club for keeping this vision alive for so many years, let’s work to bring it to fruition. ” Remember, there is no limit to what can be achieved, if it doesn’t matter who gets the credit.”