Encouragement over community bid for Orbost Forest

Jason Bold and DCT member Carole Inglis are pictured with some of the Orbost forest in the background. PHOTO: Willie Urquhart/WHFP

Dunvegan Community Trust in north Skye held its second community consultation event last week to gather views on the potential benefits of community ownership of Orbost Forest.

Organised by the consultants leading the feasibility study, the online event was designed to encourage an open discussion around both the opportunities and challenges of a community buyout of the forest.

DCT chair Jason Bold said: “There was an encouraging turnout, with all keen to share viewpoints and ideas that are vitally important, as the project moves forward through the feasibility study process. Forest crofts, solar panels and a micro hydro scheme were just some of the inspiring ideas that were discussed in the break out groups.

“We’d encourage anyone who didn’t manage to attend to contribute their own thoughts by contacting the trust by email, or via our contact form on our website, www.dunvegantrust.co.uk.”

Following a presentation covering ownership, potential development initiatives and examples from elsewhere, the discussion led to a range of ideas to improve the area for sustainable forest management, recreational use with improved paths, new cycle routes, walks, signage and using the forest as an educational resource, and sustainable tourism management. All participants agreed that Orbost was a place of exceptional beauty that held a special place in their hearts, and that any developments must take that into consideration.

Duncan MacPherson, community development consultant, added: “A healthy discussion was had on the future of Orbost with the majority sharing their aspirations and vision for an environmentally and financially sustainable forest that sits at the heart of the community. Our role as consultants is to look at all the perspectives, including case studies from all over Scotland, that will help the community make their own decision as to whether or not that vision is achievable.”