The East Cowal Heritage Outdoors (ECHO) Trail project is as much about a vehicle for ongoing change to Cowal and Dunoon, as it is about the implementation of a way-marked route. The project has been brewing for over three years, beginning with its identification as a project that could take on many of the shared challenges and opportunities for East Cowal’s communities. In 2018, Benmore and Kilmun Community Development Trust commissioned a feasibility study which identified community support, revealed potential through the revitalisation of existing routes, and identified a range of potential outcomes for communities throughout the area.
At its very core, the project aims to unlock the potential for the area’s heritage through the backbone of a new trail connecting people, places and sites of significance. It is outcomes focused, with activities reflective of the area’s profile, opportunities to improve people’s lives, communities and the local economy. As well as its past, it looks to the area’s future through engaging with young people to develop skills, share insights, encourage new ideas, and enhance the area as a place to stay, visit and work.
It aims to connect existing outdoors heritage-inspired initiatives which are being planned or delivered throughout the area. This means bringing together these initiatives to distil skills, talent and collective insight. This is more than a mapping exercise which aims to promote and enhance participation in local initiatives; it aims to connect people, raise awareness and generate effective ways to collaborate.
Equally so, it also aims to be a neatly defined project and pragmatic project. It will enhance access to the heritage landscape, encourage people to physically active, promote existing visitor attractions, increase visitor numbers and develop the local economy. It will achieve through this through a phased approach establishing community ownership throughout its development, delivery and evaluation. However, it doesn’t aim to extend visitor numbers beyond a “critical mass” which straining infrastructure and risking the landscape. Instead, it aims to establish ongoing outcomes-inspired activities for participants and provide healthy, peaceful experiences for visitors to the area.
It also presents the opportunity of becoming “more than a trail”, through the realisation of the difference the heritage landscape can make to people’s lives. This can range from ongoing outdoors learning initiatives in collaboration with schools, training, employment and physical healthy activity through engagement with fitness / leisure providers.
The East Cowal Heritage Outdoors (ECHO) project aims to promote engagement with the area’s significant heritage through the provision of healthy, enriching and memorable activities as part of a heritage trail covering 40 miles. These activities will deliver a range of socio-economic outcomes for Cowal and Dunoon including community cohesion, health and wellbeing and supporting the local economy. These outcomes will be achieved through a collaborative approach with existing community-led projects, visitor attractions and charities in operation throughout the area.
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