Meet the Youth Committee of the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park!

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Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Youth Committee is a group of dedicated young people aged 11-25 years old who are passionate about the National Park and making a difference. We asked member Aidan Cronin some questions to get to know these young people and their work better.

What is the Youth Committee at Loch Lomond & the Trossachs?

The Youth Committee is a way for young people to get involved in decision making for the National Park and help them develop and learn new skills. The Committee wants to:

  • provide opportunities for young people to be involved with, and have a voice in decision making for the National Park through our Youth Committee and links to the National Park Board.
  • support young people to feed into consultations and the wider work of the National Park Authority, both internally and at external events.
  • support skills development/placement opportunities for young people within the National Park.
  • co-design opportunities with young people, for young people, to share their views and experiences of the National Park.

You can find more information and opportunities to join here. Now, keep on reading to hear from Youth Committee member Aidan and learn what he believes Protected Areas can do to start involving more young people…

How did the Youth Committee in the Loch Lomond NP came to be?

Aidan Cronin Loch Lomon Trossachs

Aidan Cronin is a dedicated member of the Youth Committee

“In 2018 Scotland celebrated the Year of Young People. This was a big all year event supported by lots of organisations with an interest in Young People. The Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park (LLTNP)  created the opportunity for Young People who live in or around the National Park to get involved with the Park. But this wasn’t the first time the National Park connected with young people. One of the first youth programmes the National Park undertook was their Junior Ranger programme in 2015. The Programme started as a week long adventure around the park for High School pupils. Meeting and working with rangers and partner organisations. The programme has now grown to involve more schools and now features a weekend programme for young people who have completed the school based programme.

Unfortunately, our Youth Committee just missed out on contributing to the EUROPARC Youth Manifesto, but we have made good use of it; we discussed it at one of our very first meetings. Many of the issues, if not all, are faced by young people in our Park.

The [EUROPARC Youth] Manifesto has worked as a great stage to build off of.

For example we have done a lot of work on Youth Empowerment by contributing ideas to wider projects, talking at Park Board meetings and co-designing projects like a photo competition.”

How many people are active in the Youth Committee? Who can become part of it?

“The group currently includes about 8 young people of varying ages, many currently of high school age. Anyone who lives in or around the National Park can get involved and we want to encourage more people to join. The Youth Committee are keen to get a wider range of young people from more places in and around the Park. Everyone on the committee brings their own ideas and passions to the table.”

What kind of activities do you undertake?

“The Youth Committee gets involved in lots of different ways. We have lots of opportunities to give feedback on Park wide issues such as Littering. We get to attend Park Board meetings to hear and discuss issues in the Park. We have presented our own board paper to the board which helped solidify the Youth Committees role and impact on the Park. The Youth Committee also has opportunities to work with other young people, like our Youth Volunteers and Junior Rangers. Lastly, we get to work with partner organisations and events, such as volunteering at the 2018 European Championships in Glasgow. We get up to a lot!”

Loch Lomond Youth Committee receive the Best Engagement Project award at the UK National Parks Conference

How has corona impacted your work? Any post-corona plans for the Youth Committee?

“We had hoped to build on many of our successes from the year previous. However, it was not all bad news. The pandemic forced us to slow down, giving us a chance to think about what we want to do as a committee. The National Park staff supported us by meeting virtually. During the Lockdown we planned and sent out a survey to Young People across the park asking how they interacted with the park during Lockdown and what their priorities were for nature.

We want to grow in numbers, bringing on board more young people with a passion for the outdoors who can bring their stories and viewpoints to the committee. Climate change and how young people can contribute to this will be a key focus.”

What Youth Committee achievement are you most proud of?

“For many on the Youth Committee our achievement we are most proud of would be the experiences we’ve had. We had the opportunity in 2019 to go down to the Peak District National Park to meet with other young people from other UK National Parks, a great weekend full of discussions and activities. We are also proud that early doors, in 2019, we achieved Best Engagement Project at the UK National Parks Conference, which we were particularly proud to have achieved just 1 year after establishing the Youth Committee.”

Why do you believe it is important to involve youth in Protected Areas? What are the benefits?

“Protected Areas for the most part are in rural areas. These areas have unique challenges such as lack of transportation, internet connection and job opportunities. These challenges often push people out of rural areas, even though these areas may be of particular beauty. Allowing young people, the opportunity to shape and engage with Protected Areas allows for interest in rural jobs as well as sharing issues with people who can help fix them. It’s also important as young people are the ones who will be looking after Protected Areas in the future.”

How do you think Protected Areas can best involve young people?

“Many people, not just young people, are sometimes unaware of what and where Protected Areas are. Our recent survey found only 48.7% had a good understanding of the National Park, so there is a lot more that we can do to promote and engage young people. Protected Areas should create youth programmes which promote youth engagement with the outdoors, like Junior Rangers and Youth Committees.

Working collaboratively, Protected Areas and young people should seek to co-design solutions and projects.

What do you think needs to change in order to draw more young people to nature conservation? What are the obstacles/challenges now?

“The digitally connected world has pushed us inside, especially working from home and online school. Schools are using more and more technology, which is super important in our world today, but schools should also promote going outdoors. In our recent survey, 81% of young people agreed that schools should encourage more outdoor and nature education.

Our survey identified some key barriers young people felt when exploring the national park. 30% said transport to the area was the main barrier, with 24% saying lack of information was another barrier along with 12% saying a lack of equipment stopped them exploring the national park.”

The Youth Committee at a meeting

 What do you think is the most important skill young people need if they want to work for nature?

“Passion! With any job or volunteering enjoying it is important to staying motivated and interested.”

 What is your tip to other young people in Europe that want to contribute to a more sustainable world?

“Start, even if it’s a small step. We live in a world with many issues, and it can become overwhelming at first. Picking one specific issue and focusing on it makes it easier to stay on track. Another way to contribute is through spreading awareness in your area. For example, starting an eco-group at school or writing to representatives. If you are lucky enough to live in a National Park, getting involved with them is also a great way to contribute.”

And finally: what makes the Loch Lomond National Park special and worth protecting?

“It’s hard to pick one, for many of the Youth Committee we have lived in the park our whole lives so that definitely plays a part in why the park is special. Everyone who works with the National Park (Volunteers, staff and partners) recognise that investing time, money and energy into conserving our landscape for future generations of people and animals is extremely important.

It is also very rewarding to step back and be able to say ‘I’ve contributed to something that other people can enjoy for years to come”.”

EUROPARC strongly supports the involvement of youth on all levels of Park management, be it through the Junior Ranger and Youth+ Programmes, or by adapting the Youth Manifesto. So of course we were excited to learn about this active group of youngsters in Scotland. Is your Protected Area giving a voice to young people? Then we would love to hear from you! Get in touch with us under & be sure to tag us and use the #StrongerWithYouth when posting on Social media.

This year’s EUROPARC Conference will feature a workshop dedicated to Youth Involvement. Find all info and registration here!