THE North West Highlands Geopark, set up in 2004 as the first venture of its kind in Scotland, is celebrating another success.
At a meeting of the European Geoparks Network (EGN), the Geopark in north-west Sutherland was awarded the prestigious “Green Card”, permitting continuing EGN membership for another four years.
The accolade followed the visit of two EGN assessors last autumn and was announced at the EGN conference in Luberon, France.
The Geopark, a Sutherland Partnership project, promotes tourism, community engagement and sustainable, environmentally-friendly local business.
The work of Geopark officer Fiona Mackenzie is directed by a steering group which includes strong community input from representatives of all five community councils in the Geopark area: Durness, Kinlochbervie, Scourie, Assynt and Coigach.
Both Fiona and recently-recruited Geo-ranger Donald Fisher attended the meeting in France.
Fiona said: “We were delighted with this outcome of our bid for continued membership. Qualifying for this award is never easy, and some Geoparks have been removed from the EGN for failing to get a Green Card.
“We are proud to be EGN members. We were very confident that our Geopark meets the EGN’s highest standards.
“The recent arrival of my colleague Donald has added to the amount of work we can achieve, and we look forward to continuing to serve the communities of the Geopark over the next four years and beyond.”
Geopark steering group chairman Iain Muir said: “The Geopark started on a small scale less than five years ago. It now operates very effectively in support of tourism, business and community activity.
“We have ambitious plans for much-expanded activity in the near future through our two Geopark posts.”
Councillor George Farlow, steering group vice-chairman, agreed. He told The Northern Times: “The Geopark is an imaginative way of harnessing the stunning geology, landscapes and wildlife of north-west Scotland – and the area’s vibrant community spirit.
“The Geopark has lots to contribute in the matter of promoting and publicising the area. I welcome this vote of confidence from our European parent organisation.”