Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust
In the last issue, I mentioned a workshop arranged for February to prioritise
path repairs. In the event, bad weather intervened and the workshop was postponed.
Unfortunately, when it actually happened, the weather was glorious: a truly
magnificent winter's day. The participants were all grumbling, wishing that
they were out in the hills making the best use of the snow and sun!
The focus of the workshop shifted from the advertised prioritising path repairs
to working on the next COAT bid for Lottery funding. Guidance from the Lottery
staff has indicated that, to be successful in the future, bids need to pay more
attention to community involvement. The workshop essentially consisted of idea
generation for the people part of the funding application.
The output is now being incorporated into the Mountain Paths Project application
on behalf of both the Cairngorms and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National
Parks. It details how the partners will engage with the public and involve them
in a wide range of opportunities from training and volunteering to events, walking
festivals and schools projects. I list the key proposals below:-
- Proposal: To increase the scope and range of activities currently undertaken
within local schools to target them more specifically at the Mountain Paths
Project. To widen the number of children who participate in these activities
to well beyond the National Park boundaries.
- To increase the level of path specific engagement with formal education
groups through fieldwork, an increased and improved media project, steering
of groups to consider paths as part of the John Muir Award and the production
of an education pack.
- Proposal: To significantly increase the scope and role of the volunteer
workforce in the National Parks. This will include broadening the Adopt-a-path
scheme to cover more paths and attract volunteers from a wider geographical
area, targeting existing schemes such as the Junior Rangers to relate directly
to the Mountain Paths Project and creating new groups of practical conservation
volunteers from the major centres of population with volunteer co-ordination
and experienced supervisors to work across the Parks. Volunteers will be recruited
from a wide area around and within the National Parks and training in a variety
of techniques will be given.
- Proposal: To increase the involvement with the walking and other festivals
within the National Parks and to run specific activities relating to the Mountain
Paths Project. This could include guided walks and volunteer work parties.
To develop linkages between the existing walking and cycling festivals by
collective marketing and training. This would be carried out by a designated
project / community development officer.
- Proposal: To run occasional ranger-led walks as part of the health walks
programme to introduce the Mountain Paths Project and to encourage participants
to become involved through training or volunteering.
- To expand the existing health walks within the parks by providing training
for walk leaders to lead more advanced walks and to employ mountain guides
for mountain walks.
- Proposal: To continue to work with the organisers of mass participation
events and to include key messages about the Mountain Paths Project and personal
giving in participant's information. Leaflets about the Mountain Paths Project
will be included in each participants information pack. Organisers will be
encouraged to include an option of personal giving into the event fee so that
revenue can be directly generated from participants. This will contribute
directly towards the long-term sustainability of Mountain Paths.
- Proposal: To further develop the existing ranger-led events and activities
to include mountain paths, mountain access and key messages that relate to
the project in order to provide increased public engagement for the Project.
To review the promotion of these events to ensure as wide an audience as possible
attends the events.
- Proposal: Working with communities to consider interpretive structures
at key trailhead locations in the National Parks to explain the purpose of
the Mountain Paths Project and to encourage direct action by users.
- Proposal: To explored innovative uses of technology and produce a series
of podcasts that interpret the mountain paths and landscape.
- To develop Geocache trails around the National Parks that provide key messages
about the project and allow participants to collect points and be awarded
special project coins.
- To develop Project web pages within an existing website and to develop
pages to celebrate the upland paths.
- To install a network of people counters to monitor path usage.
I'm sure that many of you will agree with me. We do need to get more people
involved if we are going to get continued funding for path repair and maintenance
and we do need to avoid becoming elitist. However, the prospect of mass participation
events on sensitive paths in sensitive areas fills me with dread - encouraging
more people into the high mountains is a very two-edged sword!
Later, the workshop did turn to path prioritisation but the energy was gone
and little concrete was achieved. On the positive front, pleas from local landowners
for their paths to be prioritised for repair revealed an avalanche of undoubtedly
very deserving causes. I left feeling that with the likely funds to be raised,
provided that the eventual prioritisation was done properly, there wasn't going
to be enough money for "over-zealous" repairs as there more than enough
cases of real need.
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