Four national parks are taking part in a £1 million project to encourage members of ethnic minorities to take an interest in the running of the organisations.

A group from West Yorkshire spent a weekend in the Yorkshire Dales finding out about its attractions. Among the places they saw were Gordale Scar and the Malham nature trail. Mountain biking, a batwalk (presumably not pretending to walk up buildings with the camera on its side?) and pond-dipping – is that like skinny dipping but with lily pads, Ed? – were among the activities undertaken.

The aim of the Mosaic Partnership is to create 20 community champions from the ‘black and ethnic minority’ population who can sell the attractions of the national parks to people in their community and encourage them to use the parks.

As well as the Yorkshire Dales park, the scheme includes the Peak District, North York Moors and Brecon Beacons.

A million quid sounds like an awful lot of money to spend training people 'to act as ambassadors and information channels between their own communities and the national parks, and to encourage more people to learn about what the national parks have to offer by finding out for themselves by paying a visit'.

grough hopes that, while agreeing with the aim to get people from ethnic minorities to enjoy the best bits of the country, the scheme isn’t just another exercise in lining the pockets of consultants and members of the Training Provider Enrichment Scheme (we made that one up, by the way). Give us a minibus and a few maps and we’ll do it for half the price!

Cathy Bergs, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA) outreach project officer, said: “The Community Champions will act as spokespeople for the national parks, cascading their interest and enthusiasm throughout their own professional and community networks.

“The idea of the taster weekends is to show what we have to offer visitors and how accessible the parks can be from nearby urban areas.”

The partnership also aims to encourage organisations within the National Parks to work more closely with BME communities (that’s Those In The Know-speak for black and minority ethnic – Ed). It will run for three-and-a-half years and will build on the foundations laid by the Mosaic Project, which ran from 2001 to 2004, during which time the YDNPA was involved with the Council for National Parks, the Black Environment Network and partners including the Youth Hostels Association.

It aimed to introduce people from BME communities to the National Parks of England and Wales and to demonstrate how National Park Authorities and voluntary sector organisations could involve these communities.

The majority of the funding for the project is from a £635,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. The remaining cash comes from the organisations involved – the four national parks, the Countryside Agency, Nationwide Building Society and the Lloyds TSB Foundation.

There was uproar in January last year, well, in the Daily Mail at least, when the Lake District National Park proposed to halt guided walks by its wardens because they attracted middle-aged, middle-class, white people.

Judy Jing Wong, Director of the Black Environment Network, was quoted then in The Times: “If you’re going to involve new people, you need a programme. I would recommend that the way forward is to ensure that volunteers have training to support newcomers.”

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