Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Council apologises to ‘disappointed’ Slieve Gullion day trippers

Newry, Mourne and Down Council have apologised to scores of visitors who were left disappointed after being turned away from Slieve Gullion Forest Park due to an apparent lack of available parking spaces over the recent Bank Holiday weekend.

As hundreds flocked to the hugely popular tourist spot over the May Bank Holiday weekend to visit the recently opened ‘Giant’s Lair’ and the Adventure Play Park – both of which are a massive hit with children of all ages – many people reached the car park entrance only to be directed to the exit after being advised of a lengthy wait for available parking spaces.

One local man who visited the facility with his family on Bank Holiday Monday has criticised the parking system in place, claiming that many people were turned away despite there being an abundance of parking spaces available.

He told The Examiner that he refused to exit when directed to by Council staff because he believed they were “not properly monitoring the ever changing parking situation.”

According to the dad of three, he asked council employees who were assembled at the entrance to the car park if they could tell him the current availability of parking spaces.  When they refused to do so, advising him that they would reassess the situation in thirty minutes, the man questioned why they were not operating a system whereby one attendant monitored car park spaces continuously and radioed to those at the gate when spaces were available, therefore allowing more people to enter.  He was allegedly told that this was in fact being done, despite the fact that, as he waited, all three car park attendants remained at the gate to the car park while at least 10 vehicles were directed away from the facility after being told there were no parking spaces.

He claims that after a five minute wait, he was granted access to the car park where he counted 15 free parking spaces while people were still being turned away.

“I’m sure all of these people, most with young families, were very disappointed at not being able to access the car park, yet there were ample spaces available to allow more vehicles through,” said the disgruntled dad.

He further suggested that an improved car parking system would prevent many of those turned away from the facility from deciding to park on Wood Road, just outside the exit to Slieve Gullion, where residents have recently complained that they have been besieged by day trippers parking and abandoning their cars.

Another reader contacted us to highlight what he described as “the dangerous situation of congestion on the main road into Slieve Gullion Forest Park caused by cars waiting to gain entry to the facility.”  He voiced his concern that the build up of traffic attempting to turn into the park and then turning back out onto the busy road when access was denied was “a potential hazard that could lead to an accident.”

Responding to the issues raised by The Examiner, a council spokesperson apologised for “any inconvenience caused to visitors in relation to car parking at Slieve Gullion” and said additional staff had been employed over the bank holiday weekend but “they were inundated with the amount of visitors to the area.”

The spokesperson denied that all staff were located at the entrance to the car park and insisted a radio system was in operation whereby staff could communicate with each other about available spaces.

The statement added,

“For health and safety reasons staff need to try and keep the driveway clear so that if an emergency vehicle needed access to the area that they could get through.

“The council are currently looking at other sites to try and develop additional car parking in the area which will hopefully alleviate the parking shortage at Slieve Gullion in the future.”