The Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) is urging so-called ‘dirty campers’ to show some respect for local communities, wildlife and the environment in the coming weeks, following a spate of call-outs to popular camping spots last weekend.
Several areas in the Cairngorms National Park were affected by increased levels of traffic and inconsiderate parking posed a threat to peoples’ safety but the biggest issue was irresponsible campers who littered, vandalised trees in order to light campfires, and left human waste behind.
Loch Morlich at Glenmore – owned and managed by Forest & Land Scotland – was particularly busy with several call-outs for the local fire brigade, police, local land managers and ranger services due to anti-social behaviour.
Head of Visitor Services at the CNPA, Pete Crane said:
“We are delighted to welcome responsible visitors back to the Park, our economy needs it, but people need to treat this beautiful, protected area and our wonderful communities with respect.
“Let’s be kind to each other as we work through these challenging times.
“This type of ‘dirty camping’ and the anti-social behaviour that goes with it is a drain on our emergency services as well as proving particularly challenging for local rangers who are trying to ensure everyone has a pleasant time and stays safe, as well as caring for the environment.
“At no time, should anyone be lighting a fire in the Cairngorms National Park, posing a risk to people, property and our natural heritage.”
The CNPA is working with various local landowners across the Park who are experiencing this type of behaviour, along with Police Scotland and the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service, to try to prevent a repeat of last weekend.
With many facilities such as toilets and car parks just starting to re-open as well as many estate staff and rangers just getting back to work – coupled with an influx of visitors – the situation has proved challenging.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Watch Commander Alastair Dargie said:
“Last weekend, we saw many campers light fires around Loch Morlich, many of them in dangerous locations with the potential to destroy large swathes of ancient woodland.
“We will continue to respond whenever required to protect our communities and the local environment to allow visitors to continue to appreciate the scenery and beauty of this area.
“We are working with our partner agencies to raise awareness of the dangers in lighting camp fires and leaving them unsupervised.
“Whilst crews are committed to putting out fires that have the potential to be damaging, by responding to such incidents we are not available for our primary role of life preservation should a serious car accident or house fire occur.
“Those recklessly lighting camp fires not only risk damaging our natural environment and wildlife, but can also have a wider impact on the community by reducing or delaying the response to life saving emergencies.”
The CNPA, as the Outdoor Access Authority has a role to promote responsible outdoor access – including camping – as set out in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Pete Crane added:
“There is a minority of people spoiling it for the majority who are acting responsibly.
“We anticipated that there would be many more people coming to the Park this summer as people choose to holiday at home, which is why we took the decision to employ seasonal rangers so there is an extra resource on the ground.
“We are also trying to get up to date information about campsites, facilities, car parks, etc, out to visitors via social media channels so that people can plan ahead and be the best visitor they can be.
“We want to reassure local communities that there is a partnership approach to this and we are all working extremely hard to prevent damage to our National Park’s special qualities and our reputation as being a welcoming visitor destination.”