THE plea by James Stuart, Convener of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority, for public responses to the draft National Park Partnership Plan is worth our attention (“An important dialogue to be had on the future of our national park”, Agenda, The Herald, April 19). Under previous conveners this national park has been losing its way, its most serious mistake being the introduction of by-laws to control camping and the use of campervans. The Easter bank holiday provided a good opportunity to see these by-laws in action. It provided confirmation that the by-laws, with associated permit system, were less about camping management and more about income generation for the park.
What I found led to four main conclusions: in the majority of the permit areas the park had made no extra provisions for campers or campervan users, apart from the erection of by-law notices – the only change for those who had been camping in lochside locations for many years was the arrival of park rangers demanding £3 per tent or campervan; the park appeared to have made no attempt to clear litter away from loch shores before the bank holiday and it was newly arriving campers who were doing the job for it; virtually all campers were enjoying camp fires, with the wood brought with them (including pallets and even old furniture) or sourced from windblown timber in nearby plantation forest; those in camper vans were subject to permit charge while those in adjacent touring caravans were not – yet another example of the legal incompetence that underpins these by-laws.
I attended the park board meeting last December and heard Mr Stuart’s impressive speech as he sought election to the convenership. Sound action now needs to follow those fine words. Sorting out the shambles over litter collection and the provision of firewood would be a good start. Perhaps the park should consider reducing the size of the ranger service and replacing it with an effective litter collection and firewood provision service. I might even help them pick up some of the litter and pay £3 for a nice bag of firewood for my camp fire – far better than a permit bureaucracy that fundamentally undermines Scotland’s statutory rights of public access to our land and water. The partnership plan is the opportunity to correct this situation and restore some sanity to the bonnie banks. It requires our input by July 3.
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