The issue of who pays is a thorny one that has no simple answer. While the owner of an estate may be willing to contribute, private landowners see no return on their investment. Users are reluctant to pay, especially if the money appears to be going into the owner's pocket. Public bodies are the mainstay of funding, with local councils recognising the benefits that accrue to the wider community through local businesses and through the health of the population. Similarly Scottish Natural Heritage have been willing to contribute to the management and protection of the environment.
Not all the work needs contractors and users can contribute through a variety of groups. The National Trust for Scotland and the John Muir Trust repair paths on their estates. Both use supervised volunteers for some of the work - look out for plans to repair the Schiehallion path (recently purchased by JMT). Local groups are to be found on Ben Rinnes, Bennachie and Clachnaben. However this leaves a large number of paths without any attention. The Mountaineering Council of Scotland and the Footpath Trust (formerly Ross & Cromarty FT) have introduced a scheme to encourage local people to tackle their local problem path.
If you know of a mountain footpath in need of repair, then see if your club or a group of friends would adopt it. The Footpath Trust will guide a local group through the steps necessary to plan and tackle the work. These steps include surveying, fund-raising, training and on-going maintenance. There is great satisfaction from repairing a path that should last for many years to come. For a long time users have been benefitting from the Scottish environment and the time has come to give something back.
Further information is available from NEMT, MCofS or the Footpath Trust (Unit 4 Bridgend Road Industrial Estate, Dingwall, IV15 9SL)
Donald Thomas, September 1999
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