The forthcoming closure of the road through the iconic Dark Hedges is a welcome move but more must be done to preserve the attraction, a local DUP councillor has said.
The Department of Infrastucture has confirmed the road will be closed to traffic from October 30 onwards in a bid to halt damage being caused to the beech trees on the Bregagh Road, near Armoy.
The Dark Hedges are an iconic set of trees dating back more than 200 years that shot to international prominence when they featured in the smash hit cinematic television show Game of Thrones.
In the programme, the Dark Hedges were depicted as the fictional ‘Kings Road’, the setting for several pivotal plot lines in the acclaimed fantasy series.
The influx of tourists has, however, begun to take its toll on the picturesque avenue of trees.
DUP councillor Trevor Clarke, who is to raise the need to protect the tourist attraction at the Causeway Coast and Glens council on Tuesday night, said branches were being damaged by passing coaches and the roots of the trees were also being worn down by the amount of vehicular traffic.
Mr Clarke told the News Letter: “Of course tourism is welcome but we also have to protect the very attraction that is bringing those tourists in.
“This type of tourism is big business and we have to ensure we can enjoy that in the future as well.
“You have people in small vehicles parking up on the verges and large vehicles manoeuvering up on to the verges to get past one another.
“The large vehicles especially were clipping the branches and damaging the trees, and because they were driving on to the verges they were exposing the roots and damaging the roots of the trees as well.”
Mr Clarke said the council is exploring whether it can provide car parking close to the attraction.
“Another issue we are going to have to resolve is car parking,” he said. “There is a hotel there and it has car parking but we should look at the provision of additional car parking.
“We have been exploring whether we can buy some land and construct a car park on it but we don’t know as yet what stage that is at.”
He added: “Sadly before all this happened with Game of Thrones, that was when it was at its best as an attraction.
“You will see damage done since that time because of the popularity that it enjoys. It is an important part of our tourism infrastructure and we must do more to protect it.”
A spokesperson for the Department of Infrastucture said: “After careful consideration of the issues raised by the objectors the department decided that it was appropriate for the traffic to be prohibited from this road. The order comes into force on the 30 October.”