THE chief executive of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park says the coronavirus pandemic has brought major challenges to the area.

But Gordon Watson says he views the large number of new visitors to the park, as people turned to the outdoors to improve their health and wellbeing, as a positive – and has promised that he and his staff will learn lessons from this year to make things better for visitors in 2021.

Huge numbers of people flocked to Loch Lomond and the surrounding area when the initial UK-wide lockdown was eased at the end of May – prompting concerns over the potential transmission of Covid-19 into rural areas with low case numbers.

Writing in the Reporter’s sister title, the Helensburgh Advertiser, Mr Watson said: “Throughout this year of stresses and restrictions the National Park has provided a place for people to benefit from getting outside for recreation, as well as enjoying its nature and landscapes, with the many physical and mental health benefits that provides.

“While this has brought some significant management challenges, I see it as very positive that new audiences are turning to the outdoors to improve their health and wellbeing.

“The pressures of the year have also led to more effective and positive joint working with partners and stakeholders looking to solve some of the visitor management issues that arose, such as littering and irresponsible parking.

“We will be using what we’ve learned this year to make improvements for the next visitor season and beyond, so we can support people to enjoy the park responsibly while at the same time protecting its nature and communities.”

Mr Watson also says the park authority plans to spend more time in 2021 on its climate and nature commitments, alongside its day-to-day visitor management work.