Call for Affric to Alladale National Park
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A NEW national park should be created stretching up into Mid and Easter Ross, a Highland group has argued.
The Scottish Government has committed itself to establish as least one new national park by 2026 – the first in Scotland since the Cairngorm National Park was created.
Views are currently being sought from communities across Scotland as to possible locations for the new park,.
And, now, a team in Easter Ross has put forward its own suggestion – the Affric to Alladale National Park, stretching from Loch Ness at Glen Affric in the south up into Mid Ross and Easter Ross.
The Affric to Alladale team argues the park would incorporate some of the finest glens in the north, as well as significant areas of native woodland, and the highest mountains north of the Great Glen.
"While the west coast is rightly celebrated, the eastern side of the Highlands has been too often overlooked” said Dan Bailey, a member of the team working on the bid.
“Yet this landscape of tremendous scenic and ecological value is a priceless natural asset for all of Scotland, and deserves the protection and recognition that National Park status would bestow.”
Natural highlights that would gain greater recognition include the lochs and forests of Glen Affric, the scenic glens of Strathfarrar and Strathconon, the remote Monar and Mullardoch Munros, the woods and waterfalls of Contin and the Blackwater, and the Ben Wyvis massif.
National Park status would provide a new level of protection for the popular Wild Land areas in the high hills, say the Affric to Alladale team, as well as allowing for the co-ordination of significant re-wilding efforts such as those already taking place in Glen Affric, on Ben Wyvis, and in Alladale.
“From woodland to peatland, there is huge scope for habitat restoration and species reintroduction; our area could be at the forefront of Scotland’s efforts to enhance biodiversity and mitigate climate change,” added Dan Bailey.
“But as well as a wild place with many valuable habitats, this is a human and a working landscape too. A national park should reflect the needs of farmers, estate managers and all those working on the land.”
Covering a large area, the park's advocates argue it would give a major boost to the lucrative active and green tourism sector, bringing income, investment and new business opportunities to the wider region. Communities the team says may stand to gain include Evanton, Dingwall, Strathpeffer, Garve, Conon Bridge, Beauly, Cannich and Drumnadrochit.
In promoting and protecting access to the countryside and active living, a national park could provide new opportunities for residents and visitors to enjoy outdoor leisure and the benefits of healthier lifestyles. New footpaths and cycle trails could be funded, providing car-free connection between communities, and extending public access to hillwalking and mountain biking.
“We must all continue to protect, promote, extend and maintain our valued recreational assets” said Graham Macdonald of Highland Trail Riders, an organisation that builds and maintains the mountain bike trail network that has made the Contin and Strathpeffer area a well-known cycling destination.
“We support the Affric to Alladale National Park bid because it will help improve the trail network in the wider region, increase participation in mountain biking, and encourage youth development in the sport at all levels.”
The team argues that significant economic benefits could also extend beyond tourism and leisure, with a park authority committed to sustainable development being able to help steer the expansion of green industries, improve rural connectivity, promote affordable and social housing, and improve the quality of life for residents.
“A national park that encompasses some of the country’s finest glens and bens in the north-east Highlands is overdue,” said John Mackenzie, Earl of Cromartie, who is backing the bid.
“A park can both promote green tourism and provide ways to address the impact of increased visitor numbers. But the wishes and needs of local residents must be integral to it if we are to fully harness the potential of a new national park.”
The Affric to Alladale team intend to build a nomination in close consultation with communities, landowners and businesses throughout the area, and are inviting residents to share thoughts on how a national park might work to benefit the north-east Highland region.
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