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Park Talk:What a year!

29th December 2018

By CNPA Convener, Xander McDade

It’s my last Park Talk of 2018, so I thought I would reflect on the year – and what an incredible year it was, which marked the 15th anniversary of the Park’s creation.

The biggest highlight was the fantastic EUROPARC conference in Aviemore in September which saw over 600 delegates – including two Scottish Government ministers – visiting all corners of the Cairngorms National Park. The centrepiece of the event was the launch of the Youth Manifesto, designed by young people from across Europe to address the particular issues they’re facing. And as readers of this blog will know, the CNPA Board put its money where its mouth is just a week later and elected me – a 25 year old – to be the new Convener.

Another brilliant event was Women in Wellies which was aimed at encouraging young women to consider pursuing careers in the rural sector. The Boat of Garten Hall was packed with young women keen to hear more about making a living working in forestry, farming, gamekeeping, recreation, conservation and academia. On a similar note, the fantastic Cairngorms Nature Big Weekend in May – which is one of the things I look forward to every year – hosted the first Rural Skills Day, which proved very popular with young people keen to find out more about training and job opportunities.

We were fortunate to see significant investment coming into the Park for a variety of conservation projects such as Heritage Lottery funding for capercaillie and we saw significant funds awarded to the RSPB from the Arcadia Trust for Cairngorms Connect – with the CNPA being a supporting partner – which will help towards the restoration of the Caledonian pine forest. There was also Heritage Lottery funding for the Badenoch Great Place scheme which is helping to shape the Badenoch area’s future as a heritage tourism destination.

Many of the projects and events mentioned rely on volunteers and I am delighted to see more and more people volunteering whether it’s with the Cairngorms volunteer ranger service, various environmental volunteering opportunities or the many health walk leaders out there – thank you all so much!

And then there is the plans and strategies that we’re been working on. This year we’ve approved the Forest Strategy and the Cairngorms Nature Action Plan and early in the New Year the Proposed Local Development Plan 2020 goes out for consultation. And talking of the New Year – don’t forget elections to the Board take place in March. Do you think that you have the passion and commitment to play your part? As well as welcoming new board members we also look forward to welcoming BBC Spring, Autumn and Winterwatch to the Park.

Finally, it was great to see the CNPA’s office extension formally opened in 2018 and Xander Johnston, a Cairngorms Nature Young Ambassador, being named Young Nature Champion in the RSPB’s Nature of Scotland Awards for his outstanding dedication to conservation in the Park. I would also like to thank the Park Authority’s staff team and all of our stakeholders, without whom the work of the Park would be significantly diminished.

Merry Christmas and Best Wishes for 2019.