Call to make Ben Nevis 'Scotland's National Mountain'
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Ben Nevis should become a recognised area similar to national parks in a bid to attract funding to help promote and attract the area.
The Nevis Landscape Partnership is calling for the Ben to become Scotland's National Mountain, taking in the highest peak in the UK along with much of Glen Nevis.
Large parts of the 1345m mountain lie within a Site of Special Scientific Interest, while the encompassing landscape of Glen Nevis constitutes one of Scotland’s most accessible and cherished National Scenic Areas, according to the group.
The partnership wants to encourage more people to access the area in a sustainable way that won't detract from the natural beauty and cultural significance that attracts visitors from across the world to the area.
It has already worked with Jahama Highland Estates, which has leased Lower Falls Car Park to them rent free. With funding from the Rural Tourism Infrastructure Fund the group is turning the facility into a low impact, visitor hub which will include toilets, a bus stop, bike racks, visitor information and links to the wider path network.
The aim is to encourage better, greener choices in how people access Glen Nevis, reducing congestion and pollution, while at the same time directing the income derived from visitor parking into the care of the area.
However, the partnership says that this one facility on its own will not sustain the Nevis area.
The group said: "It is the high profile and national importance of the area together with its accessibility that attracts more than 400,000 visitors annually. Indeed, the number of people enjoying Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis has doubled in the last 20 years and this trend is set to continue.
"We are blessed in Scotland with abundant natural resources to rival the best in the world, and it is clear that the Scottish Government recognises that we have a duty to protect and enhance these assets as essential to our economy, culture, way of life and the wellbeing of future generations. However, for the Nevis area, this is a critical moment.
"If we are to continue welcome everyone who wants to explore the Nevis area and take advantage of the well understood benefits to health and wellbeing, we need to have a long-term structure in place that will care for our visitors as well as for the landscape and the nature that thrives in it.
"We need to develop a framework for a move towards a carbon neutral, circular economy which directs funds raised from visitors to Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis into visitor and environmental management of the Nevis area."
The Nevis Landscape Partnership believes there is a need to welcome those new to the outdoors, teaching them about the area and its wildlife as well as sharing the principles of leaving no trace to help protect the area.
However, it says as the area is not a national park, a separate designation should be given to this special part of the Highlands.
It added: "Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis benefits people, our local communities, it drives our visitor economy, and plays an important role in reaching CO2 and global warming targets. However, to ensure the Nevis area can be sustainably enjoyed by future generations we need to put in place new, secure, long-term resources to care for this unique national landscape.
"At the same time, we must also be aware that Glen Nevis has internationally acclaimed cultural and natural heritage assets. In balancing economic drivers, we must be careful not to detract from the very qualities which make Ben Nevis and Glen Nevis a unique place to live and to visit.
"As we are not a National Park, we do not get the Scottish Government funding provided to those areas to promote access and care for the area. We believe that, as well as National Parks, there should be a companion designation for specific and discreet areas of national importance with direct access to Scottish Government funding. This funding could be routed through experienced and accountable, constituted community organisations, to assist in securing the future of these nationally important areas.
"It is time to recognise Ben Nevis as Scotland's National Mountain, with the beautiful Glen Nevis at its feet."