As we celebrate 20 years of Loch Lomond & The Trosscahs National Park, Board member and Convenor James Stuart reflects on the changes, challenges, and celebrations from his time on the Board, and considers the mission ahead.
I joined the National Park Board in 2015 and am now towards the end of my eight year term. I first worked with the Park two years before that as the Loch Lomond Bye laws were being reviewed – something we are doing again ten years later. It has been a fascinating time to be part of the Board. Not only have we had to deal with considerable growth in visitor numbers and users of the Park and more regular major weather events, but we have also had to respond to the new demands and opportunities of rapidly changing societal views on the climate and nature emergency and of course a global pandemic.
I am particularly proud of how our whole team has responded to these changes; whether that is through innovation to help create a brand new green finance facility working across the UK to secure hundreds of millions into nature based solutions, or the truly remarkable resilience shown through the pandemic. Across the entire operation of the National Park there has been change, seeking to enhance our efforts to address the dual emergencies and to further the roles we play in wider aims of Scottish Government. Some of these – access to the outdoors and the health benefits of green and blue spaces came into sharp focus in the early stages of the Covid 19 pandemic.
Across these activities my favourite memories regularly involve the work and activity of our youth committee. They are a remarkable group of young people and their work around COP26 stand out in particular. The confidence of Catriona as she spoke on the UK pavilion in the Blue zone or Aidan’s effortless ability to engage a US Secretary of State and one of our own Cabinet Secretaries; both occasions will last long in my memory.
As we look forward I have no doubt that the next 10 years will have just as much change. The National Park seeks to reconcile the conflicting needs of communities, visitors, the rural economy and nature in a long term sustainable way; one that sees nature and people thrive. This work is more relevant than ever before; parks and other protected and conserved landscapes across the world could – I would say should – play leading roles in nature’s recovery and humanity’s work to address climate change. Indeed the next 10 years will determine if we will succeed or fail in these missions.