Roe Valley Archery Club - Petition  
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Save our Forest...

Roe Valley Archery Club (RVAC) has used the part of Gortnamoyagh Forest known as "The Pot" since 2005 for both practice and competition shoots. In April 2006 and 2009 RVAC hosted the Northern Ireland Field Archery Championships, highly prestigious events in the archery calendar. Club members have very successfully competed at both Northern Ireland and UK level in field and indoor archery. We were planning to host the All Ireland Field Championships in 2013.

The club had used this part of the forest, free of charges, since 2005. Its location is secluded and being on the other side of the road from Gortnamoyagh, has hardly any visitors. Mr Andrew Houston, Recreation Officer, Forest Service, Garvagh, after consultation with his line manager, Mr Parker, has stopped Roe Valley Archery Club from using this ground. This decision was then allegedly upheld by your predecessor, Mrs Gildernew. Having no access to 'The Pot' for practice and training is having an obvious detrimental impact on the ability of our members to continue to compete successfully and the morale of everyone particularly our young archers.

I would like you to reconsider this decision.

The undersigned stakeholders wish to voice their serious concerns about the impact of this decision.

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In response to correspondence with our Club President, Monsieur Moison, Mr Parker, Recreational Manager, based at Castlewellan, listed the following reasons for disallowing our use of the aforementioned forest:

RVAC will have to pay a licence fee of £500 to cover costs to the Forestry Service.

RVAC response: As a small club mainly funded by annual membership fees and club night admission charges we are unable to afford this cost. We have queried how this figure of £500 was arrived at by the Forestry Service. Your letter dated 3 May 2011 indicated that £170 was an administrative element of the fee would appear excessive. The remaining £330 was unexplained. To our knowledge the forestry service have not incurred any financial cost as a result of our past activities.

In addition you indicated that Ballyvally Archers have agreed to pay the fee. I would like to point out that Ballyvally have a considerably larger membership than RVAC and are probably in a position to afford this unlike ourselves.

The target bosses to be set up immediately prior to and removed after each event. These bosses were a risk as somebody might climb on one and fall.

RVAC Response: These target bosses have always been left in situ until now with no problems. The club management have regularly considered and undertaken risk assessments for setting up and removing target bosses. In light of the remoteness of the location, the time required to remove/set up the bosses would be prohibitive and potentially increase the avoidable risk of trips and falls. Our small dedicated team of volunteers already give extremely generously of their time and it would be unrealistic to ask them for further commitment. In addition as the total estimated visitor numbers to the whole of Gortnamoyagh Forest is 840 per annum (Forestry Figures) then the number to 'The Pot' (an off-shoot of the main forest), where we practice, is very minimal

It is also interesting to note that Ballyvally Archers were allowed to leave the target bosses in situ, at Castlewellan Forest Park, between two competitions held respectively on the 19th/20th of February and on the 12th/13th of March this year. While we in no way begrudge this we can not understand the different standards being applied.

This part of the forest is unsuitable due to dead standing trees and wind blown ones.

RVAC Response: We still do not understand the logic behind the unsuitability of the forest because of dead or fallen trees. As mentioned earlier regular risk assessments are carried out prior to activities. In the event of any tree posing a risk we either move the fallen tree or reroute the course to ensure safety at all times. Preservation of trees and habitats are also paramount together with public safety. Another main risk would be high winds and as this would be dangerous we do not access the forest in such conditions. Photographic evidence of the second competition held at Castlewellan Forest Park in March this year shows quite a number of fallen trees and it was run safely and with no problems.

A possible badger set.

RVAC Response: During all discussions/correspondences prior to 15 March 2011 the possibility of a badger’s set was never mentioned. At a meeting on 15 March with our Club President, Mr Houston said that he was told about the possibility of one. This then appeared as "fact" in the answer from the Office of the Minister for DARD. After making enquires with club members who have shot at 'The Pot' many times, no evidence of badger activity has ever been seen. Mr Houston to this date has never confirmed nor been able to confirm the existence of a live badger’s set.

The answer from the Office of the Minister mentioned the fact that Ballyvally Archers who use some of the grounds at Castlewellan Forest Park were happy with the new system.

RVAC Response: For the Forestry Service to make comparisons between Castlewellan Forest Park and Gortnamoyagh Forest is not comparing like with like. Castlewellan Forest Park bounders the town and draws a large number of visitors, has proper vehicular access while 'The Pot' is over 3 miles from Drumsurn, a small village, is accessed through a locked gate and a lane around 350 yards long and visitor numbers are minimal. Therefore it is difficult to understand why the Office of the Minister seeks to treat the two as similar in their circumstances.


"A strategy to develop the recreational and social use of our forests":

"The vision of this strategy is that our forests will become key venues for outdoor recreation and tourism, offering opportunities to appreciate and enjoy biodiversity, and a wide choice of activities for an increasing number of visitors."

RVAC Response - Our club provides great opportunities for both adults and young people to participate in archery (field archery being an outdoor recreational sport). In addition, when we run competitions, archers from other parts of Northern Ireland and beyond attend, thus bringing the economic benefits of tourism to the area. This is particularly true when Northern Ireland Field Championships are held. RVAC have been in the process of organising the second part of a field archery exchange with French counterparts from Vigneux, France. Vigneux is twinned with Limavady. Archers from RVAC have already travelled to France for a field competition. However due to having no forest to shoot in, the return trip has had to be postponed potentially cancelled much to the disappointment of the members.

Denying access to the forest is in fact in direct contradiction to the aims/outcomes of the strategy.

"Working in partnership as an executive, and across the public, private and voluntary sectors, to harness the ideas, energy and commitment of all sectors."

"Forest Plans and Stakeholder Engagement - Effective Consultation with stakeholders is an integral part of the forest planning system, ... ... ... .. There are statutory requirements to use appropriate participative approaches to obtain the views of stakeholders that are under-represented. In terms of recreational and social use, for example, this includes children and young people. This is an area we will develop through out forest planning process, as part of our implementation of the Strategy." (Also see Outcomes listed in strategy)

RVAC Response: As there has been no evidence of "working in partnership" nor consultation with the RVAC (a stakeholder) we do not understand why the department are not implementing the above. The members of our club are committed and give much of their time especially to developing our younger archers and we feel that no support is forthcoming from the Department to help us achieve both our aims and those mentioned above.

"Encourage healthy outdoor activities by improving accessibility to green spaces. Physical and mental health benefits from outdoor recreation and proximity to trees and woodland have been well reported..."

RVAC Response: The physical and mental benefits gained from participating in any sport and particularly outdoor sports in green/woodland spaces have been well researched and documented. With key government objectives and campaigns to engage more people in living healthier lifestyle, particularly the young, we are at pain to understand the justification to deny access to the forest.

Recently our Junior Archers Forum asked the question "Why are we told in school and through public agencies to get outside, take part in sport and be healthy and then be told: no! you can’t because you are not allowed into the forest to practice".

We would respectfully ask the Minister to reply to all of the above and to answer this last question from our juniors as we are unable to understand, let alone justify the decision/action taken by the Department. Once again we would request that the minister overturn the decision to deny our club access to 'The Pot' at Gortnamoyagh Forest and reinstate our former access/use agreement.