Boats returning to once busy trade route after seven-decade absence
The first navigation lock built in Belfast in more than 250 years will open its gates tomorrow.
A small number of boats will pass through the new Number One Lock at Stranmillis on the River Lagan at 11am.
It will be the first time this has happened since the Lagan Canal was closed to commercial traffic in the 1950s.
The lock is located underneath the new pedestrian and cycle bridge built as part of the Lagan Gateway scheme and opened last September.
Other initiatives falling under the scheme include the refurbishment of the existing weir, as well as landscaping and new path connections.
A symbolic event marking the occasion, organised by the Lagan branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland with the co-operation of Belfast City Council, will be held tomorrow.
Guests at the event will include the Lagan Dragons boat club.
A lock is a device used to raise and lower boats between stretches of water where the water is at different levels.
The Stranmillis lock is one of 27, stretching the length of the canal, all the way to Lough Neagh.
Work on the canal started in 1756 and finished in 1794.
Trade along the route stopped 70 years ago, and eight miles of the canal were filled in to accommodate the M1 motorway.
Speaking as work on the lock got under way, Erskine Holmes, chair of the Lagan Navigation Trust, welcomed the project.
“The commencement of work at Lock Number One reinforces the potential to open the entire navigation from Belfast Harbour to Lough Neagh, creating opportunities for economic development and tourism,” Mr Holmes said.
“The Lagan Gateway project will attract significant visitors who will want to experience the activities associated with the navigation — namely, boating, walking, cycling, jogging, canoeing, water sports and angling.
“The success and benefits accruing from Lock One are intimately linked to this broader vision of a fully restored Lagan navigation.
“To this end, the project also envisages restoration of Lock Two at Mooreland Meadow, within the Lagan Valley Regional Park.
“This will entail the construction of a new control weir, complete refurbishment of the lock and clearing of the channel, upstream and downstream.”