PEOPLE are being invited to become New Forest Ambassadors to help the national park authority support its work protecting the area.
Since coronavirus travel restrictions were eased, the New Forest has, like many other locations, received unprecedented numbers of people returning to enjoy time outside.
Most visitors cause no issues and given the opportunity, many are keen to learn about the area’s rich culture, history and wildlife. However, there has been a rise in anti-social behaviour including fire risks, irresponsible parking and littering.
Many who live in or close to the national park have expressed their desire to help in the efforts to respond, and now the NPA has created a list of practical ways people can get involved in their local villages and community areas and across the area, alongside the increased patrols and activities already being carried out by NPA rangers and staff, Forestry England and the emergency services.
Five hundred litter picking kits, each including a picking guide, bags, a hi-vis jacket and a litter picker, will be available in various outlets. Downloadable and printed resources, including the New Forest Code, will also be available on the NPA website to ensure parish councils, local businesses, visitor attractions and accommodation providers can share relevant messages.
People will also be able to report a problem with improved instructions on the NPA website and with a record of verge and gateway parking, Forest organisations can review the area’s long-term parking needs.
Nigel Matthews, the NPA’s head of recreation, management and learning, said: “Many people are rightly reaping the health and wellbeing benefits of time spent on the coast and in the countryside, including in the New Forest National Park.
“A coordinated effort is in place by all Forest organisations, local authorities and the emergency services to address resulting issues. We also know that many local people have been supporting this work by picking up litter and reporting issues, and we’d like to thank them for protecting the national park.”
Mr Matthews continued: “We recently held an online summit of parish councils who asked how they could get involved further. We’ve been contacted by individuals, families and commoners who also offered more practical help.
“We hope the information and resources we are providing will help create a new and growing team of New Forest ambassadors, which we can expand in the coming weeks and months.
“Alongside welcoming people back to the national park, we want to help them understand and respect it while encouraging everyone to stay safe.”
NPA member Richard Taylor added: “As the country emerges from lockdown, many people are visiting the New Forest to enjoy its natural beauty and tranquillity.
“The New Forest Ambassador scheme provides an excellent way for local people to get involved and help these people understand and benefit from the special qualities of this place – and yet not cause inadvertent harm.”
For more information on the New Forest Ambassador Scheme, visit www.newforestnpa.gov.uk/nfambassadors or mail firstname.lastname@example.org