Communicating the value of National Parks

In the past two weeks I have been lucky enough to spend time with two key groups involved in our National Parks – the voluntary National Park Societies who held their annual gathering in Buxton, on the edge of the Peak District National Park, and the statutory National Park Authorities, who met on the shores of Loch Lomond.

So were these just a couple of National Park jollies, or did anything more substantive emerge from them?

It’s always a privilege to spend time with our local network of passionate and expert National Park campaigners and there was certainly plenty to talk about when we met. Much of our discussion was inevitably dominated by the spending review and political context for this. Given the subject matter, the conference could have easily descended into gloomy introspection, but none of this – my fellow Park campaigners were as optimistic and forward looking as ever and we all came away with plenty of campaign ideas.

Park campaigners must keep a spring in their step

There was a recurring sense of frustration about the role of National Park Authorities. Now while there are many Park bashers out there, we are not among them. Instead, our concern lies with the limited role of National Parks on areas such land and access management, despite their obvious connection to delivering Park objectives. But there’s an opportunity to look at this afresh given the inevitability that in an increasingly constrained public funding environment ‘things will be different’.  Of course that needs leadership if progress is to be made, both by the Park Authorities and by government in producing a mature response to any proposals.

Going litter-free in Loch Lomond

In Loch Lomond, we learned much about local park issues and got our own taste of the dreich (or was it mochie?) for which the area is famed in a hot-footed ascent of the Cobbler. But the real value of the conference was sharing thoughts on how the National Park movement might respond to the impending funding squeeze.

Experiencing the dreich on the Cobbler

Parks can’t be islands though, if they are to survive and remain relevant, and forging new partnerships and engaging communities should be essential ingredients in the new world order. The angst between some local communities and their Parks must be recognised and its root causes tackled. Will this autumn’s review of Park governance by Defra help or will it dodge the issues?

While we know that the Parks provide many benefits to the nation (clean water, fresh air, spiritual refreshment, a growing tourism economy, home for rare wildlife to name but a few) we can’t simply assume that everyone will attach the same value to these public benefits. It is our responsibility to help people to understand what the National Parks deliver for them for their own lives and value systems. Our National Parks should not be take for granted, neither should public understanding and support for them.

The Campaign for National Parks will be celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2011 and we’ll be hoping to use this anniversary year to spread the word about the value of the Parks, including through our new Park Protector award which will recognise, reward and celebrate one exceptional project or individual that has made a lasting contribution to the protection, restoration or conservation of our glorious National Parks.

But in embracing the value and good work of the Parks let us not become complacent about the challenges that lie ahead – our warming climate has already led to a new resident in parts of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park….the mosquito, who now joins the resident highland midge in its ongoing work to deter visitors. Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne recently warned that we have failed to communicate the dangers of climate change to the people – perhaps exposure to highland mosquitoes might help to get this message across in the future?

For me, Mike Cantley from the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs Park Authority asked the most pertinent question, ‘In a world that is blinkered with short term objectives, surely our National Parks have something special to offer?’ Yes Mike, they do! But it’s up to us to persuade and convince others of this.

Gazing across stunning views are one of the many benefits of National Parks

6 thoughts on “Communicating the value of National Parks

  1. James

    Writing from the New Forest I think that at a time of national crisis the idea of National Parks has to modified. The most important change would be to restore democracy and give back the vote with local representation on planning. The way the NP residents were disenfranchised was wrong. Planning in the NP should be returned to the elected Local Authority. If this should happen it leaves the NP as a spending organisation which could then become a department of the local authority and as such subject to the same spending restrictions. I am not against protecting special areas but it should be done democratically.

  2. Richard Baguley

    While I wholeheartedly support the concept of the National Parks I believe that all should be very careful in discussing climate change or, more correcty, anthropogenic global warming.

    I recently read an asinine comment by an individual who asserted that there are those who deny climate change – pity them (and the commentator) for the climate of this planet has changed for about 4.5bn years and it isn’t about to stop now. Come to think of it I don’t know anyone who, either publicly or privately, denies climate change; this individual should name names.

    A period of warming following the last Ice Age and indeed the Maunder Minimum (and a later coolish spell in the first half of the last century) was easily predictable (but the current climate models did NOT do so – there’s food for thought).

    The planet cooled for approximately 11 or 12 years however since September 2009 another, minor, warming has been happening.

    Mankind has obviously made some impact on the planet but no-one, I repeat no-one. knows exactly what. Therefore to proclaim any need for carbon emissions reduction in the name of climate change is absurd – the recent Icelandic volcano eruption wiped out all existing and planned future carbon emissions reductions at a stroke. Anyway, CO2 is good for plant growth…

    Furthermore a recent scientific paper postulates serious global cooling as a result of the sun “going to sleep” i.e. no sun spots.

    To cause the world’s economy drastic cuts in efficieny that will affect the developing economies more than the west’s is nothing less than disastrous arrogance.

    You mention Chris Huhne, he who is opposed to nuclear power and who believes that our salvation is a burgeoning “green” economy: he is hopelessly wrong on both counts but I’ll stop here without explanation nor even mentioning bad science & “Climategate” in detail!

      1. parkcampaigner Post author

        Dear James
        Many thanks for commenting and for your support for protected areas. I’m sure you are already aware of this but there are lots of ways in which you can engage with the National Park Authority’s work, including by applying to be a member or through the various consultative forums that exist. This autumn, Defra will be leading a review of Park Authority governance which we understand will take a look at how effective Authorities are in engaging with their local communities – I’d be happy to send you further details of this once the consultation has been announced. I don’t agree with you are Park Authorities should lose their planning function and become departments of local authorities though – this was the position pre-1995 and was widely regarded as not working. I’d be happy to continue the dialogue on this one – do get in touch if that would be of interest.

      2. Richard Baguley

        Thanks, Ruth.

        Good to see the Royal Society edging a tad closer to objectivity but as yet it is far from being so.

        The headline image of polar bears is most unfortunate in the extreme, the very notion of AGW caused decline (indeed any decline) having been debunked ages ago. See here:-

        This blog is interesting, even if it relates to the other end of the world:-

        Unlike the alarmists, I find that it pays to keep an open mind.

  3. Richard Baguley

    Erratum: “first part of the second half of the last century” and a missing “c”.


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