The stunning new look Brooke Park will be unveiled to the public this week, the council has announced.
The opening on Friday comes almost two years after the park was closed to facilitate a complete overhaul through a £5.6m regeneration.
The final touches to the work are now being made by Derry City and Strabane District Council as the major project, which was supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Department for Communities, nears completion.
Welcoming the announcement, Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council, Alderman Hilary McClintock, said she was confident that local people would be delighted with the result.
She said: “I’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a sneak preview of the site and I’m thoroughly impressed by the work that has gone into transforming the park.
“I think the public will be absolutely delighted to see the end result which brings together the most state of the art leisure and play facilities and some of the park’s most picturesque historic features.
“I want to congratulate the parks team behind the project in realising this vision for one of the city’s most significant city centre sites.
“The site has been restored to its former Victorian splendour and will once again become ‘the People’s Park’ as it was known - a vibrant social and leisure hub for our citizens as intended by its historic founder John Gwyn, as well as a stunning visitor attraction.”
Significantly, the park reopens on the anniversary of the laying of its first foundation stone in 1839, when the impressive Gwyn’s Pavilion building was first founded by benevolent local businessman John Gwyn.
He bequeathed £40,000 - a substantial fortune at the time - to fund the establishment of the city’s first orphanage for young boys, having himself been orphaned at an early age.
On Monday, 9th September 1839, the foundation stone of Gwyn’s institute was laid by the Protestant Bishop of the day, Richard Ponsonby.
The Brooke Park project was supported with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund and speaking ahead of the opening Paul Mullan, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund NI, said:
“Thousands of people across Northern Ireland visit their local public park daily. They are highly valued for the physical and emotional benefits they provide. And thanks to National Lottery players, parks have never been in such great shape.
“HLF awarded £1.5m for the major restoration project within Brooke Park and we look forward to seeing it on its completion.”
The work was also funded by the Department for Communities and congratulating Council on the successful delivery of the project, Minister for Communities, Paul Givan, said:
“I am delighted that my Department has been able to contribute to this exciting restoration and development of Brooke Park. With the gates of the park once again opening to the public, many will appreciate the hard work that has resulted in creating this unique shared space.
“People will now clearly benefit from their time spent at Brooke Park and I have no doubt it will enhance the lives of those in the local community and future generations.”
Gerry MacLochlainn, Manager of the Glen Development Initiative (GDI) and Acting Chair of the Brooke Park User Groups, welcomed the news of the park’s reopening.
“The reopening of Brooke Park has been eagerly awaited by residents of the Outer West area and we are keen to see our community and everyone in this city avail of the new facilities on site. The regeneration has been a long process involving ourselves in the Outer West Neighbourhood Renewal Partnership, Council and others agencies such as Heritage Lottery and the Department for Communities.
“GDI is extremely proud of our contribution to the Brooke Park renaissance and we look forward to playing our part in the formal opening celebration in due course.”
The Brooke Park regeneration includes the building of the Gwyn’s Pavilion Café on the site of the former Gwyn’s Institute, the restoration of the Brooke Park Portico Lodge and the former Victorian Oval Pond. The scheme also includes an innovative play garden, a walled garden, a Horticulture and Environment Training Centre and new contact sport centre set within a beautifully restored landscape.
The park will be opened to the public on Friday September 9, and the official opening celebration event marking the beginning of the next chapter in the park’s colourful history will take place in the New Year.