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Park Talk: Ready for 2021

28th January 2021

By CNPA Convener, Xander McDade

New Year, new lockdown! Here we go again – only this time we know a vaccination programme is underway which I am sure gives hope that life can finally get back to normal. While significant challenges remain – like how do we recover economically from a year of financial and social turmoil – there is light at the end of the tunnel.

At the CNPA our priorities across conservation, visitor experience and rural development will continue in 2021 with a particular focus on how our work helps tackle the climate emergency, while also playing our part in ensuring a sustainable recovery from Covid-19.

Considering the immediate needs of individuals, communities and businesses affected by this pandemic is nationally important right now and where the National Park is concerned, we have a clear focus on what is required in the months ahead.

We can assume that high numbers of visitors will opt for a staycation again this year and when the current lockdown is lifted (whenever that may be), and we look to the Easter holidays, we need to be as prepared as possible in terms of infrastructure and communication.

Visitors are essential to our economic recovery so the CNPA is working with partners to develop the right visitor management plans for 2021. While we love to welcome visitors to the Park, we want to ensure that everyone has a great time, respects the Park, its communities, landscapes and wildlife.

With that in mind we will soon be looking to recruit seasonal rangers again. The extra ‘boots on the ground’ proved invaluable in 2020, talking with visitors, helping to ensure people did the right thing – and when they didn’t – helped clear up the mess! This will also be supplemented by five young people being recruited through the Kickstart scheme as part of work across the National Parks in the UK.

We are working with partners through our Economic Steering Group to make sure we are helping businesses though this very challenging time. The Group has met recently to review all the business support schemes, identify gaps and to make sure the information is getting out to the people that need it. There has been some very good work done between all the relevant bodies including the Cairngorms Business Partnership, the Federation of Small Businesses and all the business/tourism associations that work at village level. The Group has also considered the implications of Brexit for the Park – it is still early days and, right now, the priority for most businesses is dealing with the Covid challenges.

2021 marks the start of work on developing the next Cairngorms National Park Partnership Plan and central to much of that is likely to be the climate emergency while seeking long term sustainable solutions to a variety of issues that affect the Park’s residents, visitors, businesses, communities, wildlife and landscapes. Discussions are already taking place with a wide range of partners and later in the year we will be looking to the public for your views.

So despite the gloomy start to the New Year, there are better days ahead. Stay safe.