Page last updated at 10:15 GMT, Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Forest's economic value analysed

Galloway Forest Park
The forest park already attracts 850,000 visitors a year

A research project is being carried out to establish the economic worth of woodland in south west Scotland.

The Galloway Forest Park covers some 300 sq miles and boasts a total of three visitors centres.

It also hosts a range of outdoor activities including two sections of the internationally acclaimed 7Stanes mountain bike trail.

The study into the park, which already attracts 850,000 visitors a year, is hoped to be completed by July.

The Forestry Commission is keen to build on the park's success and has put in place a tourism strategy and visitor services master plan for the woodland.

The aim is to develop the facilities and increase annual visitor numbers to 1.6 million by 2015.

As part of the process, the commission is looking to establish the forest's current value to both the local and national economies.

A 40,000 study has been commissioned in the form of an impact assessment.

It will be used to identify the potential benefits of the park development plans and support future investment in the woodland as a major leisure and recreational destination.

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