OUTDOOR groups have reacted to the new camping bylaws that have come into effect around the shores of Loch Lomond.
The bylaws were confirmed last year and brought into effect on March 1 this year. They create four Camping Management Zones which will be in place from March to September. To camp in these Zones during this period, visitors will need to have a valid permit to camp in a permit area, or stay over in a campsite.
Many groups and individuals have said that the bylaws simply undermine Scottish access rights and criminalise camping freely.
Brendan Paddy, Director of Ramblers Scotland, tested the bylaws at the weekend himself to see how things had changed.
He told the Reporter: “There’s been widespread criticism of the ban throughout this week in the media, on social media and from many well-known outdoor enthusiasts and recreation bodies.
“We hope the park leadership will take stock of these concerns as part of their work to monitor the bylaws, which we do not want to see renewed when they are reviewed in 2020.
Mr Paddy encouraged anyone camping in the park to heed advice from rangers or police, but also let Ramblers Scotland know of their experiences.
He added: “On Sunday night, I had to book and pay for a permit to free camp in an area with no toilets, bins or drinking water.
“I was just a hundred yards away from a spot I visited a few months ago where camping is now completely banned for seven months each year, starting in March.
“These bylaws are making it harder, and sometimes completely impossible, for responsible campers to enjoy some of the most beautiful and accessible parts of the park. A national park should be a showcase for Scotland’s world leading access rights but instead free campers now have fewer rights in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs than anywhere else in the country.”
Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park have received a mixed reaction to the new bylaws but maintain that the first week of the new permit system has gone well.
A spokesman for the National Park said: “We have provided a mix of camping options, including permit areas with little or no facilities in order to provide a ‘wild camping’ experience within our busiest lochshore areas. Our booking system helps campers identify the different types of sites available and the charge is a nominal £3 per tent.
“Gathering feedback is an important part of the project. We welcome the comments we’ve received so far, particularly from those who have booked permits and come to camp already. Any project of this scale will take time to bed in, but overall the response has been encouraging.
“We accept that there are people who do not agree with the bylaws but we’ve also received many messages of support and have had lots of people booking to camp.
Mountaineering Scotland, who also voiced concerns about the bylaws when they were first announced have encouraged people to familiarise themselves with the new system and make sure they're following the rules.
A spokesman said: "There seems to have been a fair bit of confusion over what the bylaws will mean for people and how far the zones extend. This will hopefully ease as people become more accustomed to the system but the basic problem remains: these are ill-thought-out bylaws which risk criminalising responsible campers while failing to address the problems. They undermine Scotland’s hard-won access legislation and send out the totally wrong message to visitors to the national park.
"Our advice to members is to abide by the bylaws because of the legal consequences they face otherwise, but we remain opposed to the bylaws and will continue to argue for their removal."