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Cairngorms National Park to get its own dedicated ranger service

By Gavin Musgrove

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Some of the seasonal rangers who were employed by the CNPA from the mid summer to the end of October, last year.
Some of the seasonal rangers who were employed by the CNPA from the mid summer to the end of October, last year.

The Cairngorms National Park Authority is putting plans in place in a bid to avoid a repeat of the spate of dirty camping issues which plagued Badenoch and Strathspey's visitor hotspots at the end of the last Covid lockdown.

Members of the CNPA's board are being asked to approve £236,000 to establish a dedicated seasonal ranger service when they meet virtually tomorrow.

The eight rangers and a manager would work from mid March to the end of October.

They will be supported by five ‘Kickstart’ Youth Placement opportunities for young people at a cost of initially £3000 to the park authority.

David Cameron, the CNPA's director or corporate services, said there was highly positive feedback on the seasonal rangers service established last summer in the national park.

He said the new staff would complement existing ranger services already in operation by other authorities in the Cairngorms.

Mr Cameron stated: "Easter weekend falls in 2021 on the weekend of April 2.

"Despite the ongoing and currently tightened Covid restrictions, we continue to expect the Easter weekend to present the start point of a busy visitor management season in 2021."

The aim is to have seasonal and management staff in post from March 22.

Mr Cameron explained: "As with the 2020 seasonal ranger service development, this allows for a short period of staff training before full commencement of service."

He said the proposed rangers numbers matches the scale of the team deployed in 2020, and will again be added to by the ranger employed through the Cairngorms Capercaillie Project.

However, there will be a rise in cost for the rangers service this year as the intention is to employ them for 14 extra weeks in total.

CNPA Rangers get to work clearing the dirty campers' rubbish at Loch Morlich
CNPA Rangers get to work clearing the dirty campers' rubbish at Loch Morlich

Last year's rangers did not start work until late June when the UK came out of lockdown.

The finance chief warned the commitment of £236,000 will 'clearly limit other potential flexibilities' when the CNPA's full budget is considered in March.

Park officers are also drawing up plans for the recruitment and deployment of five ranger service work placements for young people under the “Kickstart” scheme for which funding has been secured through a collective UK National Parks bid.

The idea of the collective bid for Kickstart funding was initially proposed by CNPA.

North Yorkshire Moors National Park Authority has since taken on the lead role for the application and Mr Cameron said there are good relationships on this project with them.

The Kickstart grant covers National Minimum Wage of £8.91 per hour for a 25 hour week.

As a minimum, the CNPA said it would employ the youngsters at the Scottish Living Wage which will cost around £3000 more than grant cover available.

Mr Cameron said: "Additionally, as we develop the service, we will consider augmenting the 25 hour week creating roles at the authority’s standard 37.5 hour working week."

That could lead to the cost rising to £30,000 this year but he said management would make decisions based on how the park's budget is panning out.

Loch Morlich and other popular visitor spots were damaged by the huge influx of visitors after lockdown ended last summer, with an associated rise in dirty camping.

Life was made a misery for many of the residents of Glenmore. Issues included illegal camp fires and felling of trees, human excrement in local woods and huge amounts of litter.

Park convener Xander McDade has said that the CNPA has to be prepared as best possible to deal with similar issues once the tourism season starts.

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