A recent opinion piece from David Lintern, Why I Broke the Loch Lomond Camping Byelaws, sparked some lively discussion. Since their introduction earlier this year the measures to control informal camping in accessible locations throughout Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park have proved controversial, to say the least. The problem of anti social camping is undeniable across the Scottish Highlands, but is a local ban in one park the answer? In the interests of balance we wanted to hear the other side of the story. Here Gordon Watson, Chief Executive of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, explains the thinking behind the new rules, and reflects on how they are working so far.
Following David Lintern's article 'Why I broke the Loch Lomond Camping Byelaws' which was published earlier this month I want to provide some context and a more up to date picture of how the byelaws are working so far.
As David himself points out, his 'experiment' was carried out just 10 days after the byelaws came into effect. We are now four months in.
There is a reason we have National Parks. They are special places that need to be protected for everyone's enjoyment now and in the future. The seasonal byelaws have been introduced because the sheer number of visitors to some of our most easily accessible lochshore areas, plus the antisocial behaviour of some campers going back many years, has a major impact on the environment and the experience of other campers and visitors to these beautiful areas.
They've been brought in alongside the creation of new campsites and camping permit areas. These are designed to provide different options for campers; something in between formal campsites and wild camping. Permit areas still allow people to enjoy their camping experience on a lochshore but in such a way that the volume of visitors is managed and protects the Park's fragile environment.
A regular criticism of the seasonal byelaws is that existing powers could have been used to manage the antisocial behaviour issues but what's often not acknowledged is that, despite significant investment in ranger presence and partnership with Police Scotland to enforce existing laws, these problems persisted anyway. The problem is a combination of unsustainable volume of use and irresponsible behaviour.
The introduction of byelaws is a big step. It has not been taken lightly and we have said from the outset that we will closely monitor how they are working and listen to feedback to fine tune things.
Feedback from those staying in permit areas has been very positive so far. Everyone who books a permit is sent an online feedback survey which so far have had a strong response rate. Results show that 85% of respondents would recommend staying in one of the new permit areas and 91% found it easy to buy a permit.
Our Rangers are also experiencing overwhelmingly positive reactions from visitors to the Camping Management Zones with the vast majority adhering to the new seasonal byelaws. Communities in some of the areas have also passed on positive observations about changing attitudes and increases in the numbers of day visitors.
There has been some negative, but mostly constructive feedback. This along with our own close monitoring is being used to help us make improvements. For example moving some permit areas to more suitable spots and improving visitor information and advice on our booking system.
We are committed to listening and addressing issues to improve visitors' experiences in the Park. That will continue throughout this season and as we plan for the future. We look forward to welcoming more people and hearing their views as the season goes on.
To find out more about camping in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park go to www.lochlomond-trossachs.org/camping
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