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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Traffic chaos returns at Dark Hedges as visitors numbers increase

The ageing trees at the Dark Hedges had a temporary reprieve during the COVID-19 pandemic, as lockdown restrictions and a travel ban saw visitor numbers to the iconic site reduce to almost zero.

Some locals during this period had described the trees that line the Bregagh Road, as looking much brighter and healthier.

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UNFORTUNATELY it’s seems that lessons still haven’t been learned as the easing of restrictions has saw an increase in visitor numbers, and with it the return of the parking problems and traffic congestion that has blighted this popular tourist attraction, causing irreversible damage to the trees.

📸 Bob McCallion
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Even the erection of signage directing visitors that there is no access and parking along the stretch of road, or risk a fine, hasn’t been much of a deterrent with several volunteers taking it upon themselves to try and self police the restrictions.

This has been further complicated as the car park and other facilities at the nearby Hedges Hotel are inaccessible due to Dark Hedges LTD being taken into receivership by Turpin Baker Armstrong on July 5th of this year.

📸 Bob McCallion
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Dark Hedges campaigner, Bob McCallion has found himself yet again writing to ‘steakholders’ asking for help.

“Please can somebody (ANYBODY!) actually do something about the fiasco at the Dark Hedges, especially the serious traffic/parking problem?

Mr McCallion went onto write: ”Feelings are really running high about these problems, many of which have existed for years, but the lack of hotel parking/toilets and other facilities since the Dark Hedges Estate closed is exacerbating things:-

“As per previous reports compiled by myself and others, there are fundamental things that can be done to help, but we feel that concerns are falling on deaf ears.“

Mr McCallion also listed a set of recommendations around the signage and enforcement at the site, and suggested a safe pedestrian crossing should the hotel parking reopen or an independent car park opposite the Dark Hedges, to encourage visitor to walk rather than drive to the iconic site.

Councillor for the local area and one of the steakholders contacted, Ald Joan Baird, has voiced her concern regards the road safety around the Dark Hedges.

“Just over two weeks back i had asked the Chief Executive in the Council to see if he could work with the administrators of the Hedges Hotel in an effort to get the car park opened.

“To date progress in opening the car park has been slow.”

Ald Baird went on to say: “I am very worried about the congestion on the Ballinlea Road and the fact that cars were parking there on what is a blind spot.

In conclusion Ald Baird urged local people to “continue reporting the problem” and that she has asked Council to “pursue opening the car park”.

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