£2m giant Sperrin Sculpture trail to open soon: Derry & Strabane reps approve car park funding

Derry and Strabane’s Business and Culture Committee have approved £70,000 for the installation of car parking and facilities at the site of the Sperrin Heritage Centre as part of the development of the new Sculpture Trail Project.

The Sculpture Trail Project, costing in the region of £2 million, is a joint tourism initiative being developed by Derry City and Strabane District Council, Fermanagh and Omagh District Council and Mid Ulster District Council. 

The project will consist of three unique yet linked artworks commissioned by Copenhagen based artist Thomas Dambo which will be installed at key locations within the Sperrins region. 

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Visitors will use the stunning walking trails and dramatic driving and cycle routes to travel between the sculptures enabling them to immerse themselves in the cultural heritage of the Sperrins.

Thomas Dambo previously created the The Isak Heartstone Sculpture at Breckenridge, Colorado.

Business and Culture Director, Stephen Gillespie told members the Sperrin Sculpture Trail Project would be ‘extremely iconic’ adding: “The site for our area is the site of the old Sperrin Heritage Centre.

“We’ve always been aware that there are other works outside of the sculpture that we needed to do so this has highlighted issues surrounding the car park and its state of disrepair.”

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The report noted a site investigation and an accessibility audit identified the need for significant enhancement works to bring it up to the necessary standards to meet the service needs of anticipated high levels of usage.

Mr Gillespie added: “This work will allow us to tidy up the site and make it fit for purpose and ready for visitors when the sculpture trail opens hopefully by the summer.”

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Work underway ahead of the installation earlier this year.

Proposing the recommendation was accepted, Alderman Maurice Devenney commented: “This is a £2M project in progress and like any project like this we need good car parking facilities. This will enhance the whole area up there.”

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Major site preparation work is progressing on the three site locations in the Sperrins that will host the iconic and unique art pieces.

The installations are part of the Giant of the Sperrins Sculpture Trail in an effort to drive rural tourism and invest in the local natural and built heritage.

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The Sperrins Sculpture Trail is delivered through the Rural Tourism Scheme as part of the Northern Ireland Rural Development Programme 2014-2020 with funding support of over £1.32m from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) with match funding totalling £568k from the partner Councils.

The three locations are at Cranagh (Derry City & Strabane District Council area); at Mullaghcarn (Fermanagh & Omagh District Council area) and at Davagh Forest (Mid Ulster District Council area).

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The Cranagh site in the Gleneely Valley near Plumbridge, County Tyrone is the most advanced and nearing completion.

Thomas Dambo and the design and construction consultancy team McGurk Architects were appointed to take forward the development and installation works last year and the trail will showcase the epic stories associated with the Sperrins, the inspirational nature of the landscape, and the giant spirit and welcome of its people.

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Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District Council Alderman Graham Warke said back in March said: “I am delighted to hear this project is progressing so well and that we have diggers on site carrying out the essential preparatory work for this exciting project. This trail is a significant Rural Tourism Scheme that is bringing much needed investment and focus on the natural and built heritage which can be utilised and promoted to encourage visitors to our rural heartlands, whilst preserving the natural assets for our rural communities.”

He noted that in addition to this flagship tourism project attracting investment and tourism, it is also creating employment and economic opportunities for the region.

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The Mayor said key to the success of the project was the partnership approach to showcasing and promoting the Sperrins to create an iconic and unique tourism experience in this rural and very beautiful part of Northern Ireland.

In tandem with the site preparatory work is the artist’s designs and creations, which are expected to be complete by later this year before being unveiled as part of a major launch and reveal event.

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A key element of this project is the secrecy and suspense behind it and that the fact that the final designs will remain under wraps until they are unveiled to the public at project completion later this year.

DAERA Minister, Edwin Poots said, “I am pleased at this giant step forward that the Rural Development Programme 2014-20 Rural Tourism Scheme is enabling the creation of this flagship tourism project which will encourage visitors to the Sperrins and provide a much needed boost to the local economy.”

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Mayor Warke concluded: “There is a lot of excitement around this project and the art installations that will be created to tell the story of this unique historic site and attract tourists from near and far. The sculptures will not only explore and showcase this stunning landscape but it will be a tourist focus point for generations to come. The months ahead will be really exciting as we see the sites getting ready and the installations being completed and ready to be installed ahead of the big reveal and launch later this year.”

Gillian Anderson

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Local Democracy Reporter

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