Across Scotland, preparations are being made for the potential reopening of countrywide travel and recreation from July 15th. We asked Grant Moir, CEO of the Cairngorms National Park, how his area is getting ready to welcome visitors back.
I suspect, like me, you have missed heading out to the mountains for a long day or visiting your favourite Cairngorm spot with your family. More than that, visitors are the lifeblood of the Cairngorms National Park economy. The coming weeks will hopefully see the reopening of the countryside and we need to try and ensure that this is done safely for residents, employees and visitors.
The Cairngorms is a special place and we have been working hard with a huge range of partners to get the right approach that we can all unite behind. Our approach is set out in the Cairngorms Visitor Management Plan and is all about trying to provide the right information to visitors about what facilities are open, promoting positive behaviours and ensuring the right structures are in place to deal with issues as they arise.
Our approach with partners is around 4 key themes – Know the Guidelines, Plan Ahead, Be Flexible and Be Kind. This is all under the banner – #CairngormsTogether
Most folk coming into the Cairngorms want to do the right thing. It is a very small minority who cut down trees, light BBQs on tree stumps or cause trouble. I set aside litter from that list as I do think this is an issue that continues to blight Scotland and it is done by far more people than admit it!
The Cairngorms National Park Authority and its partners are working to get the right messages out to folk before they visit, to get the right signage at sites, to get toilets open where we can, to encourage active travel and to get ‘boots on the ground’ at key hotspots. We also want to provide reassurance to local communities that their concerns are being listened to and acted upon so we can welcome back visitors safely and with confidence.
Getting ‘boots on the ground’ has been key for us to ensure that we can talk to people positively at hotspots and give the right information. The CNPA have recruited 8.2 FTE Seasonal Rangers to help the situation in the Park over the coming months. 5 based in Badenoch and Strathspey and 3 based in Deeside + 0.2 floating (I believe over Macdui!) This is on top of existing Ranger Services in the park, some of which are grant-aided by the National Park. The seasonal rangers will help and will be working weekends but will not be a panacea. We will all have to work together to ensure that the links are in place between communities, rangers, land owners, the police and public agencies to deal with any arising issues.
Is it going to be so different from previous summers? In a nutshell: yes. People may not be able to go on their usual summer holiday so we may get more day-trippers. We might get more people coming to the countryside who aren’t as familiar with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and access norms. People have been in lockdown for 3 months and of course will want to get out and about, but all visitors must still follow the Scottish Government Covid guidance.
We are looking forward to welcoming folk back at the appropriate time as lockdown eases but please know the guidelines, plan ahead, be flexible and be kind.