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Highland Council rangers visited more than 11,500 spots as part of responsible tourism drive

By Philip Murray

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A council ranger can out on patrol.
A council ranger can out on patrol.

COUNCIL rangers visited busy car parks and beauty spots in Sutherland and the wider Highlands more than 10,000 this summer, Highland Council has revealed.

The local authority's seasonal access rangers carried out 1100 patrols, visiting more than 11,500 sites across the Highlands between May and August.

The patrols were in response to concerns over the impact of high tourist numbers on the region, and also fears over reckless and irresponsible behaviour – including by some of those travelling the North Coast 500.

The 10-strong ranger team, who were supplemented by a further seven posts using Scottish Government funding, were based throughout Highland to promote and advise on responsible access to the countryside. They also carried out duties to keep tidy, maintain and manage council owned sites and public paths, with responsible camping also a high priority.

Tourism committee chairwoman, Cllr Gordon Adam said: “In less than four months, over 60,000 vehicles were recorded in car parks and on roadsides over the summer weekends, with over 35,000 people observed by the team, just under half of whom were informed or reminded of responsible behaviour by the access ranger team.

"This face to face communication helps ensure that our beautiful outdoor spaces are protected for future generations, and has been widely welcomed.

"The impact of litter, fires, human waste and anti-social behaviour of a small minority remains an issue, but the rangers have worked with rural communities and the Council to promptly reduce its impact. Lessons learned will be examined in detail by Members and officers from the access team at a workshop within the next few weeks, so we can plan early for summer 2022.”

A workshop involving members and council officers was agreed at today’s tourism committee and will be arranged in early autumn to consider feedback from the 2021 season and help to set priorities for a revised visitor management plan for 2022.

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