A Local Access Forum in Caithness is bringing together all parties with an interest in developing and managing access to the outdoors. It is an advisory body working to promote dialogue and understanding, developing a consensus and promoting a co-operative approach to access to the countryside and inland waters.
The 14 members of the Forum represent user groups, communities, land managers, agencies and The Highland Council. Members will contribute in many ways by sharing information and ideas, discussing issues and problems and suggesting solutions and recommending priorities for action to the Council.
The Forum has now held three meetings the most recent of which was on the 22nd August in Wick. Caithness Local Access Forum is one of six Access Forums established by the Highland Council throughout its area following the introduction of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act in February of this year.
Ken Butler, Chairman of the Caithness Access Forum said: “Local Access Forums perform a fundamental role in bringing together different interest groups. Sharing information, discussing key issues and developing a consensual approach to the resolution of access problems, be they on land or inland water, is very important. It is imperative that we get this right to promote ‘responsible access’ throughout Caithness. We will consider the interests of tourists who are so important to our economy, land managers and owners who make their living from the land and recreational users of the land who have important rights of access from this new legislation.”
Rumster Forest was chosen as a launch site for the Forum. The forest provides a significant access resource for Caithness with recently developed paths and trails catering for walkers, cyclists and horse riders. There is now a circular route that includes Rumster mast, a well known land mark, which provides a panoramic view of East Caithness.
Stephen Fraser local forester with Forestry Commission Scotland and forum member said: “Forestry Commission Scotland has an open access policy; promotion and provision of routes are key components to encourage the public to enjoy the forest resource. Rumster is perhaps the best known although forests at Achairn and Camster are increasingly being used by the public for recreation.”
A key role for the forum in the coming months will be to assist The Highland Council with the creation of the core path plan for Caithness. This plan will identify core paths throughout the Caithness area.
Details of the Local Access Forum membership, agendas and minutes can be viewed on the Highland Council web-site at: Caithness Local Access Forum
Early comments or submissions for paths considered to be important in the area of Caithness can be submitted to David Barclay, Highland Council’s Access Officer based in Wick. Mr Barclay can be contacted directly on telephone number 01955 605858 or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.