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Wednesday, 24 July, 2002, 13:28 GMT 14:28 UK
Royal opening for national park
Loch Lomond
The national park is the second largest in the UK
Scotland's first national park has been officially opened by the Princess Royal.

The ceremony completed a handover period which began earlier this month.

It also saw the launch of new visitor facilities at the gateway to the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.


Those visitors who come to Scotland very soon realise that it's pretty well as near perfect as you can get

Princess Royal
The second largest national park in the UK covers about 1,600 sq kms, an area with a population of 14,000.

Loch Lomond only makes up a small segment, but was the focus of activity on Wednesday when the Princess Royal performed the opening ceremony at the 3m Gateway Centre near Balloch.

She also toured the neighbouring Loch Lomond Shores visitor centre.

Designed as a modern day castle, known as Drumkinnon Tower, it will open its doors to the public from Thursday.

Princess Royal
The Princess Royal joked with the crowd
The princess said people outside Scotland regard the whole country as a national park but she could understand why the area at Loch Lomond has been singled out.

She also joked about that most Scottish of country pests, the midge.

The princess told the assembled crowd: "Those visitors who come to Scotland very soon realise that it's pretty well as near perfect as you can get, until of course they come across the 'x factor', which is the midge."

The princess then went on to praise the park, which she described as a considerable achievement.

Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace, who accompanied the royal guest, said the opening was a proud moment.

He said: "We've got a national park for the first time in Scotland and given that it was John Muir, a Scot, who had the vision of national parks over a century ago, it's overdue but it's very welcome."

'Important day'

It is estimated that the visitor attraction, which will include viewing galleries and an Imax cinema, will create 900 jobs over a five-year period.

Dave Anderson, the chief executive of Scottish Enterprise Dunbartonshire, said it would also bring in 35m a year to the local economy.

"The opening of the first phase of this project is an important day not just for Loch Lomond, but for Scotland," he said.

Jim Wallace
Jim Wallace: A proud day for Scotland
The centre is part of what will eventually be a 60m development incorporating a hotel complex.

Shops - including the first branch of the Jenners department store to be located outside Edinburgh - are due to open in the autumn.

The park will be overseen by a 25-member board, which began its work two weeks ago.

Critics have warned that the park could swamp the area with visitors and new development.

But its supporters believe it offers a chance to improve the area and facilities for locals and tourists, while protecting the landscape.

It is hoped that national park status will allow the area's conflicting interests to be managed effectively, so that people do not destroy the landscape and wildlife they have come to see.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Louise Batchelor reports
"Now the work of managing the park gets under way"
See also:

19 Jul 02 | Scotland
08 Jul 02 | Scotland
30 May 02 | Scotland
11 Jun 01 | Scotland
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