Stirling Council Path Volunteers

PDF Print

 

Making the most of ‘People Power’!

 

Name of Access Authority: Stirling Council
Name of group: Stirling Council Adopt a Path Scheme and other access volunteer activities
Location: Stirling Council area – excluding Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park
Project: Information gathering leading to work on paths as required
Key points:

  • Both Council staff and Adopt a Path volunteers gain benefit
  • Management and maintenance of paths is better
  • Improved relations between Council and community

 

About Stirling Council…

Stirling Council Outdoor Access Team covers a wide range of activities in the Stirling Council area but outside the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. Like other Access Authorities the Council enforces the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 as well as educating people about the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and responsible access.

All the information held on paths is kept in a computer database called CAMS (Countryside Access Management System). Along with maps of the paths, it also holds details of gates, stiles, bridges, signposts, etc and lists any required regular maintenance such as grass cutting and a note of any complaints such as a locked gate or misleading signs. The CAMS database is the Council’s main tool for managing their path network.

Finding resources (people, training, money, time)

As part of their commitment to outdoor access, the Council would like to inspect every path in their area on a regular basis. However, there are simply not enough staff to walk every path as often as would be preferred.

People

In 2003, the Adopt a Path (APP) scheme was established. This is made up of volunteer path inspectors who choose local paths to them that they would like to adopt. Volunteers are asked to walk their path once every three months and report back what they find to the Access Team. All the reports are logged in CAMS and work is issued as required. The path inspectors are an asset as they allow Stirling Council to regularly inspect paths for record keeping purposes, react to any problems such as fallen trees and broken gates as well as build up evidence for path projects. They provide the eyes and ears on the ground. The Access Team aim to roll the AAP out across the whole Council area so that all core paths identified in the Council’s Core Paths Plan (http://www.stirling.gov.uk/services/transport-and-streets/walking,-cycling-and-horse-riding/footpaths-and-rights-of-way-general-information ) are inspected.

­Training

Path inspectors receive training whereby they walk the path with a member of the Access Team to see what the role entails. They also receive an information pack including a job description, APP background information, health and safety notes, report cards, map and the volunteer handbook.

Public Liability Insurance cover is provided for the volunteers through the Council’s insurance policy for the time they are inspecting a path.

The Council also produce a bi-annual newsletter, which includes updates on access work, helpful advice and information, and highlights any relevant training courses. This goes out to path inspectors as well as other community members who are involved with other access volunteering projects as well as interested people.

Money

Financial outlay by the Council via the Outdoor Access Team is mostly in terms of staff time in managing the volunteers and processing the resulting information that comes back following path inspections.

However, staff costs are also saved as by involving volunteers, time is freed up for other path related tasks that may not be appropriate for volunteers. The other potential saving comes from spotting an issue whilst carrying out inspections and allowing an early intervention when a maintenance problem is reported.

Time

Path inspections carry out inspections four times a year, once in each season. However, the inspections can be carried out within a three-month block within each season to suit other commitments.

Volunteers also need commitment from the Council to administer the AAP scheme. Inputting information supplied by volunteers to the CAMS takes a lot of time. Each path feature is inspected and individually recorded, four times a year, regardless of whether any work is required. Associated work has to be planned, allocated and carried out then fed back to the volunteer.

It is also important to show that you value volunteers by providing regular feed back, information and events where possible.

Plans for the Future

The Council are working on the idea of establishing a maintenance volunteer scheme. This would involve supplying a group of volunteers with a basic tool-kit and suitable training in the proper use of tools so they can carry out some routine maintenance work covered by the Council’s insurance. This work would involve tasks such as repainting finger posts, clearing drainage, cutting back. Ideally this would be taken up by willing path inspectors so they could carry out the small tasks at the same time as inspecting their paths.

Lessons Learned

The scheme has been run by Stirling Council since 2003 with an evaluation carried out in 2006. Although it has been working reasonably well, some issues that need attention and/or lessons learned include:

  1. Inputting the information to CAMS takes a lot of staff time
  2. Volunteers come with different knowledge and understanding about paths in terms of acceptable/unacceptable condition and what might   realistically be required to bring path up to standard.
  3. Volunteers join the scheme at different times and need training to get started. This might be carried out for just one or two people which is not good use of staff time.
  4. Volunteers are sent maps of the routes they need to survey. Every time the map gets updated a new map is sent to the volunteer. For an extensive path network this can result in much time being spent on updating volunteer maps.
  5. Each path feature is inspected and individually recorded four times a          year, regardless of whether any work is required.
  6. Descriptions and locations of problems reported by volunteers are not always clear so staff may also need to inspect issues to decide if work is required.

 

Other ways of volunteering in access

Community Paths Groups

Stirling Council has a number of active paths groups who have carried out small scale path improvements and produced leaflets. There is a general keenness amongst these groups to do more to look after their local path network. Some of these groups took advantage of grants and have bought basic tools such as spades, bow saws etc. They are also obtaining insurance so they can carry out minor works. The Council has been able to provide basic tools training to help fulfil the groups’ insurance needs. It is the intention to work with interested community groups so that work carried out benefits core path objectives as well as local path networks.

West Stirlingshire Paths Group

This group was formally established in 2011 and comprises representatives from local paths groups in the west Stirlingshire area. The intention of this initiative is to act as an umbrella group where groups could come together to share experience and information, plan larger path projects within their area, have a pool of volunteers to act as a workforce for projects and to lobby politicians about access where they feel necessary.

Community Action Days

The Stirling Council Ranger Service run Community Action Days (CADs) for communities who approach them with a local project and who can guarantee a volunteer workforce for the day. CADs are often a good way of getting basic path improvements or repairs carried out or core path improvement work such as fingerpost installation.  

© 2014 Paths for All - Registered Scottish Charity No: SC025535, Company Limited by Guarantee No: 168554 inc. 19 Sept 1996 at Companies House, Edinburgh