Volunteers who stepped in to save Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre in Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park from permanent closure last year have been praised by Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell.
Since last November more than 2,000 children have enjoyed what has been described as life changing environmental and outdoor educational experiences in Scotland’s first National Park. The centre has a healthy order book for 2013.
Last summer the centre in Lochgoilhead, which has helped shape the lives of tens of thousands of youngsters in the past 40 years, was closed by Fife Council to save £290,000 a year and was destined to be sold off for private housing despite a 7,000 strong petition urging a re-think.
Retired businessmen, George Bruce (pictured below with Michael Russell) from Dunoon and the team behind the bid were praised by Mr Russell for efforts in keep the centre open.
After a series of setbacks the bid to re-open and run the Centre by new social enterprise, AOEC Trust Ltd, and headed up by George, was supported by Fife Council on the understanding no council subsidy would be required.
In the relatively short period since the centre re-opened last November the new Trust has been able to trade successfully without any public subsidy and 20 jobs have been either safeguarded or created. A number of small-scale improvements have also been undertaken and already over 2,000 young children from Fife and as far afield as the inner cities of Liverpool and Manchester have taken part in outdoor educational programmes at the centre.
Some funding support to re-open the centre came from a variety of sources including the Robertson Trust, Moulsdale Foundation, Gannochy Trust, Firstport and the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs and with a healthy order book, the centre has very quickly become self-sufficient and should be able to continue delivering groundbreaking environmental and outdoor educational experiences for youngsters for many years to come.
George Bruce is delighted with the progress made in the first year and is convinced his new charitable trust is well on the way to ensuring the long term sustainability of Ardroy as one of Scotland’s leading Outdoor Education Centres but he stressed they still need support to carry out improvements to the centre and help it realise its full potential.
He said: “We passionately believed in Ardroy and what it could do to inspire thousands of children and improve their life chances and it has been great to see the centre buzzing again with the laughter and excitement of young children enjoying learning experiences and making new friends.”
He added: “We are grateful for all the support and encouragement we have received from many quarters including parents, other members of the public, various Trusts and advisers, and of course Fife Council, who have given us the chance to enrich thousands of children’s lives in this wonderful part of the National Park.”
Commenting on the Ardroy rescue success story Mr Russell said: “This has been a truly magnificent and selfless effort by George and his support team and I am very impressed with what the new social enterprise AOEC Trust Ltd has achieved in a very short period of time and I wish them every success in the future.”
He added: “This is a great example of what can be achieved by the voluntary sector with philanthropic support from some of Scotland’s most successful businesses and the public.
“It also means thousands of young Scots will have the opportunity to develop a better understanding and appreciation of Scotland’s wonderful environment while enjoying what for many will be their first outdoor adventure sports experiences.”