THE gates of a historic Inverness park should be thrown open to the public for this summer, according to a campaigner calling for greater community use of the area.
Jon Ford is a member of the newly-formed Love This Park group which is exploring the possibility of transferring ownership of the Northern Meeting Park from Highland Council to a community-run group.
Supporters want to transform the site in Ardross Street into a vibrant space everyone can use, rather than viewing it through the locked wrought iron gates.
They also want to breathe new life into the dilapidated buildings, with suggestions including creating a coffee shop.
Although the vision is still in the early stages, Mr Ford would like to see a short trial introduced to gauge public response to greater accessibility at the park managed by Highlife Highland.
"I wonder if this year we could try and get some deal to have the gates open during the week so people can use it as a park and walk in there," he said. "I don’t know what the logistics would be. But it would be a postive step to have the gates open even for a trial period for a couple of weeks during the peak summer season."
Mr Ford is a committee member of Northern Counties Cricket Club which uses the park regularly during the summer and is among those driving the initiative forward.
He acknowledged one hurdle to a trial opening might be unlocking and locking the gates in the morning and at night, but said one possibility might be for the cricket club to take on that responsibility.
In addition to the cricket club, several city schools use the park regularly during the summer and it also hosts a handful of concerts and events including the city’s annual Hogmanay party.
A public meeting was held in January to discuss the idea of acquiring the park through Scotland’s community asset transfer scheme (CATS) which empowers local people to acquire publicly-owned land or buildings in a bid to put them to better public use.
There was a general consensus there that it was a good idea and a range of potential uses for the venue were suggested.
They included an open air cinema or theatre, a medieval-style fair and a tattoo as well as the provision of training and employment opportunities for people with learning difficulties.
Mr Ford said exploratory talks were ongoing with other interested groups and organisations about the way forward.
A steering group has also been formed to draw up a business plan and formalise opportunities giving access to funds.
Advice is being provided to the group by Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Inverness Impact Hub and the Development Trust Association Scotland.