FOREST trails badly damaged by Storm Arwen must reopen ‘urgently’, says a Borders MP.
Walking and biking routes in the Tweed Valley closed to the public due to safety concerns after high winds battered the region in November.
But Conservative MP David Mundell has voiced fears of tourism opportunities “slipping away” if the trails remain shut.
“Everyone will understand the need to close the forests in the aftermath of Storm Arwen in the interests of public safety, and the need to make a full assessment of the damage caused before beginning clear-up operations,” said the representative for Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale and Tweeddale.
“However, as those local businesses who have contacted me have pointed out, the Tweed Valley forests are one of the bedrocks of the local economy here in Tweeddale and there is an urgent need to get walking and mountain biking trails safely re-opened as quickly as possible to ensure that tourism opportunities do not slip away.”
Mr Mundell says he wants to meet with officials from Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) in the coming weeks to discuss the matter.
He said: “I am seeking a meeting with them in the New Year both to be updated on progress being made and to make the case for every effort to be made to get local walking and biking trails re-opened as a matter of real urgency.”
A spokesperson from FLS said: “The damage that Storm Arwen caused was significant across the south of Scotland and we have hundreds of miles of paths and mountain biking trails which have been impacted to some degree. We are already beginning to open up some trails, including in the Tweed Valley, but others will not re-open until the New Year.
“We fully appreciate the importance of the trail network to tourism in the area and agree that it is important for the local community and for local businesses that the trails are re-opened as soon as possible, that’s why, along with access to peoples properties, we have been prioritising this work since the storm.”
They added: “We’ve been working hard for several weeks now to make that happen, surveying trails, and then organising and carrying out the work the work to get them safely cleared. We appreciate that people are keen to get back out into the forest, we want that to happen as soon as possible to, but this work can be a dangerous and demanding job, it needs to be done carefully and by competent and experienced people and equipment. Fallen trees might look to be solidly on the ground or stacked across each other but they can slip, pivot, roll or fall at the slightest disturbance. Trails will progressively reopen as we make them safe – several will be open from Thursday (yesterday) – and anyone thinking of visiting any of our forests should check our website for the latest updates on sites that are open and those that remain closed.”