The iconic beech trees featured in "Game of Thrones," known as The Dark Hedges, are scheduled to be cut down due to concerns that they may be a danger to the public.
Located on Bregagh Road near Armoy in Northern Ireland, the trees gained fame for their appearance in Season 2 of the fantasy series.
Stormont's Department for Infrastructure (DFI) announced plans to commence work in County Antrim on Monday, focusing on the removal of six trees and conducting remedial measures for several others at the site, the Independent reported. Planted over 200 years ago at the entrance to the Stuart family's Gracehill House mansion, the initial 150 trees will be reduced to approximately 80.
"Game of Thrones" fans have journeyed from across the world to the area to explore the famed route, which features in guided tours showcasing set locations in Northern Ireland. As a result of its popularity by 2017, driving along the road was prohibited to protect the roots of the trees.
Mervyn Storey, the chair of the Dark Hedges Preservation Trust, explained that the decision to carry out the work stemmed from two reports, with both indicating the need to remove some trees due to safety concerns.
"While we would want that these trees would last forever, the reality is if they are 300 years of age that is not going to be the case and this work has to be carried out," he said.
"I think it is also another marker in the long journey that we are on in terms of putting in place a management structure to manage this area," he continued. "Eight seconds in 'Game of Thrones' changed the Bregagh Road and the Dark Hedges forever and we have even today, even though there is a closure in the road, we have people from California. This has been a tourist attraction for the last number of years."
Storey continued: “Yes, there is work needs to be done, but there has to be a long-term plan and that is going to take money — and where is that coming from? We don’t want to inhibit people, but we also want to ensure when people come here they are safe."
He noted that there has to be "aggressive replanting," adding that although replanting was undertaken in 2014, a lack of resources to maintain it meant the replanting "hasn't taken."
The Department for Infrastructure emphasized that the decision to remove multiple trees was made after careful consideration, with road safety a top concern.
"Following concerns about the condition of some of the trees, the department commissioned an independent specialist survey which found that 11 trees, out of a total of 86, along this route are in a poor condition and could pose a potential risk to the public," a spokesperson said.
The department said it promptly liaised with landowners and other stakeholders to coordinate actions and minimize potential risks to the public.
"This decision has not been made lightly and, whilst the amenity value afforded by the corridor of trees is acknowledged, the safety of road users is paramount," the spokesperson said.
Six trees will be cut, remedial work will be undertaken on four, and the condition of one will be checked at the site. The DFI aims to safeguard the remaining 75 trees with the help of concerned parties.
Zoe Papadakis is a Newsmax writer based in South Africa with two decades of experience specializing in media and entertainment. She has been in the news industry as a reporter, writer and editor for newspapers, magazine and websites.
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