AN improvement plan intended to help put Scotland's first national park on the same level as the likes of Yosemite in the US as a world-class tourist destination has been challenged.
Local people are unimpressed by claims in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park's Five Lochs Visitor Management Plan, which has earmarked £5.7 million of investment around five lochs in the Trossachs.
Residents claim the proposal launched earlier this month will have minimal effect. They are concerned plans for Loch Venachar, Loch Lubnaig, Loch Earn, Loch Achray and Loch Voil over the next five years will do nothing to tackle litter, anti-social behaviour and wild camping. It also means a high police presence will still be required, residents added.
They claim there has been a failure to engage with some landowners, particularly Forestry Commission Scotland, who could hold the key to a genuine transformation of the area.
Trossachs Community Council is troubled by the Loch Venachar North section of the plan.
Investment is planned for a stretch of the north shore which, according to locals, consists of two car parks and poorly maintained woodland.
They claim that for £735,000, the national park will only deliver 40 car and two motor home parking spots; 12 barbecue sites; eight camping pitches; a toilet block with three toilets; and a retail kiosk selling cold food concentrated in a few hundred yards near the three-mile long shoreline.
They say the opportunity to make something of the superb setting has been lost, by not dispersing the pitches. The community council says this will do little to address the much larger demand for camping and access to coarse fishing, and current users will be displaced to even less suitable sites.
Crucially, it also fears it will do nothing to tackle anti-social behaviour from a minority coming to the area and having noisy outdoor parties, cutting down trees for inappropriately sited fires, damaging natural habitats and leaving rubbish.
Gene Maxwell, a local farmer, said: "Without controls it will be very difficult to manage such antisocial behaviour without a continuing and heavy police presence. That will hardly make for a Yosemite-type visitor experience.
"There is considerable depth of feeling that the Five Lochs plan will not only fail to solve the problems highlighted but its architects have completely failed to achieve the synergy and leverage with other agencies that they have boasted about."
However, Grant Moir, the park authority's director of conservation and visitor experience, said the Five Lochs Visitor Management Group had held four meetings in the past 18 months when community council members had been contributors
He added: "This funding will support businesses and communities to make the very most of visitor sites and amenities."
Chief Inspector Kevin Findlater, of Central Scotland Police, said: "The problems at Loch Venachar can, in a large part, be associated with the fact that informal camping has greatly expanded with no infrastructure to support this."
Scotland has two national parks: Loch Lomond and The Trossachs was created in 2002, and the Cairngorms park was established in 2003.