Forestry Commission Scotland has welcomed the support of local groups and mountain bikers for the introduction of a parking charge at Learnie Red Rocks mountain bike trails.
The Black Isle site, which offers 16km of trails combined with some spectacular views, is hugely popular. It caters for bikers of all technical abilities and has green, blue, and black graded trails, as well as a bike park and a dirt jump area (both graded orange).
One of several sites across the country where car parking charges have been introduced, the estimated £4,000 of annual income will help fund trail and facility inspection and maintenance.
Graeme Prest, the Commission’s District Manager for Inverness, Ross & Skye said:
“For five or six years now we have worked in partnership with the Highland Mountain Bike Association to develop and maximise this site and create a quality facility that has enduring popularity.
“Unfortunately, like everyone else, we are facing challenging economic times – and we were faced with having to cut back on maintenance for the trails, which would have been hugely disappointing after all the work that has gone into them.
“It was hugely encouraging to hear that the mountain biking community, who are so passionate about their sport, is happy to make a modest contribution (through car park charges) towards helping to maintain these great trails. We welcome their continued support.”
Local Councillor, David Alston, and the Black Isle Mountainbike Club have enjoyed close working relationships with the Commission. Both understood the reasons for the move – and supported the approach.
Councillor Alston, said:
“Learnie Red Rocks is a hugely popular facility that brings thousands of mountain bikers to the Black Isle every year, both from the local area and from further afield. It’s a great draw that delivers a boost to the local economy – with shops, restaurants, pubs and accommodation providers across the area benefiting from the mountain bikers.
“Parking charges can be unpopular, and that is understandable, but there is an assurance that all the funds raised through these charges will go towards the upkeep of the trails. If this modest parking charge helps to ensure that this resource is kept in the best condition and keeps drawing visitors to the area then it is acceptable.
“When you consider what is on offer here and compare it to the sorts of fees charged for other recreation and sports activities, I think everyone would have to agree that Learnie Red Rocks remains excellent value for money.”
The Black Isle Mountain Biking Club (BIMTBC) is also about to embark on a new partnership with the Commission, taking over the reins from the Highland Mountain Biking Association. Club Secretary, William MacDonald, said:
“This is really a very highly valued facility that draws mountain bikers from all across the highlands and the north east and it’s absolutely vital for the sport - and for the wider community - that it continues to be a big draw.
“It’s a very affordable day out - and well worth it - and we’re happy to help out where we can.”
Charges are levied at the rate of £2 per day or – for the very frequent visitor – an annual season ticket is available for £25 – the equivalent of 48p for 52 weekly visits.
For more information – and to acquire an annual season pass, contact the Commission’s team at the Glenmore Visitor Centre on 01479 861220
For more information about the trials, visit the Commission’s web pages at www.forestry.gov.uk/forestry/INFD-6NZE9W
The car park is open 7 days a week.