Visitor numbers to Fife's coast and countryside are at record levels as people rediscover the benefits and beauty of the great outdoors.
Councillors at a meeting of Fife Council's Community and Housing Services sub-committee noted Fife Coast and Countryside Trust's (FCCT) annual report which highlights that, over the course of the pandemic, visitor numbers have risen by 500% in some areas.
FCCT is responsible for managing Fife’s 14 award winning beaches and 117 miles of coastal path. Overall the Trust manages more than 60 coast and countryside sites for the council, including most of Fife’s Local Nature Reserves (LNRs), access routes and core paths and the Lomond Hills Regional Park.
Committee Convener Cllr Judy Hamilton congratulated staff and volunteers on the way the Trust has risen to the significant challenges faced by the organisation over the last 18 months and thanked all those involved in keeping Fife's coast and countryside safe and accessible.
She added: "FCCT team members have gone above and beyond to make sure that, as far as possible, essential facilities were safe and available to visitors throughout the pandemic. The rise in visitor numbers has been incredibly challenging but also brings new tourism opportunities, and the council and the Trust will continue to work together to make sure we take full advantage of these."
FCCT Chief Executive Officer Jeremy Harris commented: “I am so proud of the team at FCCT for all they have delivered in extraordinary circumstances. The year in question has seen FCCT complete a significant strategic re-alignment, experience exponential growth in visitor pressure at the sites we manage, and deal with numerous severe weather and other challenges. All of this is on the backdrop of a constantly changing world rocked by a global pandemic.
"If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it is how broadly the outdoors has been recognised for the many benefits it offers; the improvement of mental and physical wellbeing, the community spirit fostered through shared access and care, and the deeper spiritual reprieve it provides to so many. Our responsibility now as those who care for it is to ensure that we are unflinchingly committed to ensuring appropriate financial backing while taking a creative and entrepreneurial approach in our activities where appropriate.”
Now in partnership with the council, FCCT is investing over £1m to deliver the first phase of the Fife Outdoor Tourism 29
Infrastructure Programme (FOTIP). A rolling programme of works, designed in consultation with communities includes investigating the challenges and opportunities presented by "Freedom camping" by campervans and motorhomes in popular locations across Fife.