Today, thanks to an award of £3.28m from the Heritage Lottery Fund, we are finally able to confirm ‘Scotland’s National Parks – The Mountains and The People’, a £6.1m, 5-year project to improve mountain paths in both Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, and in our sister National Park, Cairngorms.
The project of an unprecedented scale will be co-ordinated by Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust, and sees Scotland’s two National Parks working alongside Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland.
Alongside the crucial investment in improving eroded upland paths across both National Parks, we’re proud to say that the project brings together six different elements that include training, job creation, volunteering opportunities and an education programme:
- The Upland Path Programme will upgrade, enhance and repair a range of prioritised routes including severely eroded paths on Beinn A Ghlo, Ben Ledi and Mount Keen.
- The Training Programme will run seven month vocational training courses in the south Loch Lomond and Cairngorms areas to provide young people with the necessary accredited skills to take up employment opportunities created by the maintenance of Scotland’s mountains in the longer term and elsewhere.
- The Conservation Volunteer Programme will recruit, train, guide and support volunteers from major urban centres to carry out practical weekend work supporting the Upland Path Programme
- The Adopt a Path Programme will recruit, train, guide and support volunteers in monitoring the condition of paths across both National Parks in order to avoid problems going undetected.
- The Education Programme will coordinate the creation of opportunities for schools, colleges and universities to become involved in the monitoring, care and management of upland paths in both National Parks.
- The Visitor Information Programme will liaise and coordinate with visitor management services in both National Parks to ensure visitors are made aware of the importance of managing upland paths and the part they can play. This will be done through a combination of events, guided walks, web and social media activity.
Although our attempt take a photograph of one of our Mountains (Ben Lomond) and (some of ) our People didn’t quite work out (thanks to rain and low-hanging cloud), it was great for representatives from the key partners involved in the project to get together.
We heard from Dougie Baird and Peter Ord of Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust (COAT) about their experience in similar projects elsewhere. It was great to have people from both National Parks, from our partners including The Community Partnership to hear more about the opportunities the project brings.
Our Scottish Government Minister Dr Aileen McLeod (Minister for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform) gave her support:
“This is a great example of Scotland’s environment agencies coming together to make a real difference to the people and landscape of Scotland. Our National Parks have some of the finest scenery in the world attracting millions of visitors every year and making a significant contribution to the Scottish economy. I’m pleased to see substantial funding being committed to improving our mountain paths, providing job opportunities and training for young people in rural areas.”
Our own CEO, Gordon Watson said:
“With 50% of Scotland’s population within an hour’s drive of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs, our hills and mountains provide the perfect way for people to make the most of the outdoors. This significant investment to improve our mountain paths will provide further opportunities for the people of Scotland to get out and get active. We’re incredibly proud to be part of this landmark project that brings together all National Park aims to truly connect the mountains and the people, with opportunities for many to get directly involved.”
We’re at the very start of what we know is going to be a really interesting and worthwhile project that we hope will encourage people to spend time in our National Parks, whether that’s for a hill walk, to learn new skills or volunteer or simply to learn more about our magnificent landscapes.
For us, the name of the project says it it all, the work we’re about to embark on together with our partners is all about that crucial link between our mountains and our people.