Why has Dalkeith Country Park introduced a parking charge?
The visitor numbers to Dalkeith Country Park have increased so much over the last three years and the 2020 lockdown really compounded this. This trend looks set to continue as more houses are built around the periphery of the estate. The car parking availability in the Park, however, is already strained.
We are regularly at the point where demand for car parking spaces exceeds availability. Fields that are meant for occasional overflow parking, are being used nearly every weekend. We often receive comments relating to the shortage of available spaces and the quality of our car parks as well as reports of unauthorised parking on grass verges, tree roots and other vulnerable areas of the Park. This leads to considerable damage to the fields within the Conservation Area. The Estate is also a fragile environment with our SSSI ancient oaks.
Most of all, all these problems combined affect everyone’s enjoyment of the Park. This is what the new parking charge will address.
So how will this charge help with the challenges that the park has been facing?
The Park’s essential maintenance costs have increased as visitor numbers have increased. Currently, the driveway, the car parks, the surrounding wall and the drains are all in need of repair. So, this parking charge will help us do all this. It will also keep Dalkeith Country Park beautiful for generations to come. All the funds we raise through our parking charge will be reinvested in the Park. That is, the money it raises will be directly invested in the infrastructure within the Park.
Will this not have a negative impact on visitor numbers to the Park?
Our intention is to encourage visitors to access the Park on foot or bicycle whenever possible, instead of driving. Introducing a parking charge is in line with other local attractions. For example, Vogrie is already charging for parking and Edinburgh Pentlands, which is in the process of implementing paid parking. It will encourage a change in behaviour. If people can walk – we want them to. Also, we recently invested £260,000 in installing a new pedestrian pathway and traffic segregation measures. In addition to that, in partnership with Midlothian Council, we have been upgrading the Town Gate entrance to the Park. This was done to ensure it is a much safer and more enjoyable experience for pedestrians.
That’s great however locals are worried that their driveways and the streets of the Dalkeith will be filled with parked cars by Park users wishing to avoid paying the new charge. What is your reaction to those concerns?
We have kept the charge low so that people don’t feel the need to park in Dalkeith town. Clearly, there will be those people who wish to avoid payment and instead will try to park outside the entrance Park gates and potentially cause obstruction. To address this, we have agreed with Police Scotland to keep the existing no parking cones in situ on Musselburgh Road.
How do you see the future of the Park benefitting from the introduction of the parking charge?
We have had such an increase in footfall that we need to find a way to accommodate the number of people wanting to visit. We are currently looking at creating a new car park as well as an entrance from Salter’s Road from next spring. In addition, we are also very conscious of protecting this special environment. We’ve received a grant from NatureScot for our Routes to Our Future project. This project aims to bring together the views of multiple Dalkeith Country Park stakeholders, to assess the current complex and often competing issues that we have. Our Routes to Our Future project will help us devise a means by which we can forge a way forward. The recommendations of this project will require investment in our precious Old Wood as well as a trail network over the next decade. For this, we need to invest in our paths and visitor orientation communications. The income from car parking has the potential to allow us to make the revisions needed to the Park for our future selves and our next generations to enjoy.
Friends of Dalkeith Memberships
We know many of our visitors love to regularly visit Dalkeith Country Park and explore the walks, nature and wildlife. And we know many of you are happy to support the work we are doing to help keep our Park beautiful and protect the environment for future generations.
As part of this parking charge initiative, we are introducing our Friends of Dalkeith Oak membership. This Friends of Dalkeith membership will appeal to those who are regular visitors to the Park.