Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park Authority today launched plans to transform some of the most popular sites in the Park into 'world class visitor destinations' by investing in new facilities at key sites that have suffered from the pressure of informal camping in recent years. Will this more sanitised, commericalised approach solve the problems, or simply displace them elsewhere?
The 5 Lochs Visitor Management Plan identifies current issues that have an impact on the visitor experience including, litter, parking and damage to sites and addresses how these issues will be tackled over the next five years. During this period popular sites around Loch Venachar, Loch Lubnaig, Loch Earn, Loch Achray and Loch Voil will see substantial investment and new facilities including small-scale campsites, new toilets, parking bays, barbecue stands, picnic benches, commercial kiosks, motorhome facilities and recycling points. Yogi Bear would feel right at home.
The National Park Authority will invest £850K in the first stage of development and is working closely with local communities and public and private sectors for the next stages of investment, they say.
Launching the Plan on the banks of Loch Lubnaig, Bruce Crawford MSP for Stirling said:
'With over 7 million visitor days spent in Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park generating over £205M to the local economy, the National Park is a huge asset to Scotland and our rural communities. I am proud that we have some of the finest scenery in the world right on our doorstep and welcome the investment being made by the National Park Authority. By providing visitors with a rounded experience and enhancing popular sites with new facilities, our National Parks can rival some of the world's top visitor destinations.'
Linda McKay, Chair of the National Park Authority said:
'National Park status across the globe stands as a quality benchmark, representing the best that countries have to offer. We are fortunate to have some of the most beautiful loch shore sites in Scotland and some of the most impressive landscapes in the world. The quality of what we offer our visitors needs to reflect the natural significance of this Park. The 5 Lochs Visitor Management Plan will help raise the standard of Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park to be on a par with our US counterparts such as Yosemite where visitor needs are catered for and the tourism industry has a huge impact on the national economy.'
'By investing in high quality facilities and infrastructure, we hope to offer visitors a rounded experience in the National Park and help stimulate the rural and Scottish economy.'
In addition to giving visitors new ways to spend money, the provision of better facilities is aimed at tackling some of the problems that irresponsible loch-shore camping has brought to the area in recent years - litter, toilet waste, trees being cut for firewood, anti social behaviour, fires and even tents being left all over the place after busy weekends. Similar issues on the east bank of Loch Lomond have already led to the introduction of a seasonal ban on informal camping - reported on UKH in 2011.
The new 5 Lochs plan looks like an attempt to address the problems from a less prescriptive angle. But will this sanitised, commericalised approach solve the issues, or simply displace them elsewhere?
Alistair Barclay, a member of the Visitor Management Group and local resident expressed support for the plan:
'The investment in the 5 Lochs area is welcomed by the residents of the area. The Visitor Management Plan tackles issues, such as litter and anti-social behaviour that have caused real problems in the area over the past few years. Working together we can tackle the issues and make the area a great place for people to live in, a place for tourists to visit and spend time in and an environment that reflects its National Park status. I look forward to seeing the transformation over the next few years.'
The National Park Authority has submitted planning proposals to start the five-year plan at Loch Lubnaig in February 2013. The development of the 5 Lochs Visitor Management Plan has been steered by a Visitor Management Group comprising four Community Councils, the National Park Authority, Stirling Council, Central Scotland Police, SportScotland and Forestry Commission Scotland. Local landowners have also been consulted during the development of the Plan.