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By the end of July, Highland Council’s seasonal access rangers had carried out 800 patrols and giving more than 11,000 people advice on the Outdoor Access Code.
The rangers were appointed to try to manage the massive boom in visitor numbers to places like Arisaig and Morar, as well as elsewhere across the wider Highland area.
Highland councillors last week agreed to extend the visitor management plan funding – that covers the costs of the rangers – into the 2022 season by a one-off investment of £1.5million.
A previous one-off investment of £2.4m agreed by the council in March 2021 for this year’s season enabled a range of service improvements.
These included: a better waste collection service; 14 new comfort schemes to be provided, now totalling 50; building improvements to seven out of 75 council-run public conveniences; operational support for the new Storr toilets; support for a community group running portable toilets; car park and other road improvements; work on delivering additional motorhome waste facilities; improving visitor management infrastructure in Aviemore and a pilot public transport scheme in Skye.
Chairperson of the economy and infrastructure committee Councillor Trish Robertson said the seasonal access rangers had made a real difference to many Highland communities during the busy season.
‘Engagement with visitors, communities and landowners and the offering of information and advice has been the priority of their work,’ she said.
Chairman of the tourism committee Councillor Gordon Adam added: ‘The investment in visitor management across the Highlands has made an enormous difference so far.
‘There is always more we can do and this additional funding will help us to make further improvements in advance of the 2022 season.’
The rangers submit weekly and monthly reports with user numbers, ‘hotspots’ have been identified and monitored along with any other sites of concern highlighting issues with informal camping, parking, litter and overflowing bins, fires, outdoor toileting.
The council says there has been ‘extensive positive feedback’ from communities, members, organisations and visitors.
To the end of July, rangers had recorded 5,500 tents off-site, with nearly 2,000 toileting sites.
Action was also taken to reduce the effect of fires on vegetation damage and risk of wildfires, with 2,276 fires, 71 of which the ranger extinguished because they caused risk.
There has also been a significant reduction in the amount of litter and the effect of the litter left, with 700 bags of litter removed.
The rangers have also encouraged responsible parking, and moved on many obstructive vehicles in passing places and elsewhere.
More than 40,000 vehicles were observed parked to which 160 parking warning notices were issued.
They have also worked with communities and landowners to reduce or resolve issues, engaging with 35 community councils and numerous organisations and individuals.