Permits and quotas needed to stem huge tide of visitors heading up Snowdon


Farm leader calls for a fresh approach to curbing the problems of success being experienced by Wales’ most popular mountain peak

A permit-driven quota scheme for Snowdon could help curb the growing numbers of walkers and outdoors enthusiasts on the mountain, a farm leader has suggested.

Some 600,000 people – almost twice the population of Iceland – now summit Snowdon every year and the environmental impact is huge, leaving farmers and land managers to count the cost.

With numbers increasing by about 10% each year, erosion is a constant challenge for Snowdonia National Park Authority , which spends £250,000-a-year on footpath maintenance but still faces an annual £150,000 shortfall.

Later this month the results of a voluntary donation project – in which visitors and National Park users gifted small amounts of money – will be unveiled in Llanberis.

While this is thought to have raised thousands of pounds for footpath repairs, some fear the time is approaching when more drastic action is needed.

Gwynedd Watkin, Caernarfonshire’s county executive at the Farmers Union of Wales , said a permit system already operates in other parts of the world.

“Last year I joined a group travelling to Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan city in the Andes Mountains,” said Gwynedd, who also sits on the Snowdon Partnership, a body set up to tackle the problems of success on Wales’ highest peak.

“Every member of the group was required to pay for a permit, which the Peruvian authorities strictly enforced.

“It’s a system that works elsewhere to protects popular but sensitive environments.

“Not all visitors would be happy to pay for access but ultimately it would help improve facilities and benefit everyone. If, for example, 100,000 visitors paid £10 each for permits, it would raise £1m-a-year for improvements.”

Walkers enjoy the first snows of winter on Snowdon
Walkers enjoy the first snows of winter on Snowdon (Photo: Richard Birch)
Policing a permit system
Initially a permit system could be applied to group activities, such as mass participation running events, Mr Watkin suggested. Only if this failed to stem numbers would the scheme need to be rolled out to all users. Quotas could be introduced as a last resort.
An online permit booking system would need policing and this would perhaps be a job for the park wardens, said Mr Watkin.
“During their patrols they could carry out random checks and issue fines to anyone without a permit,” he said.
“Police officers and now being issued with chest-mounted cameras and these could be used by wardens too.”
The idea has been aired at Snowdon Partnership meetings but not action has been taken to date.

Such a scheme, if implemented, would be a money-spinner for the National Park, helping it to catch up with footpath maintenance. In turn this would encourage walkers to stick to paths and not venture on to farmland or disturb livestock, said Mr Watkin.

Walkers traverse the lower slopes of the Pwg track below Crib Goch with Snowdon in the distance
Walkers traverse the lower slopes of the Pwg track below Crib Goch with Snowdon in the distance (Photo: Grant Templeton)

Snowdonia Giving initiative set to report early success

Snowdon’s footpaths are one of the projects set to benefit from the Snowdonia Giving (Rhodd Eryri) initiative.

Another is a planned 42km circular route around the base of Snowdon linking several existing paths and tracks.

On January 23, a meeting in Llanberis will hear how much has been raised during the first six months of the pilot project, launched by innovation body Arloesi Gwynedd Wledig.

So far 28 tourism businesses have signed up, offering visitors the chance to contribute either during the booking process, or via donation envelopes left in rooms. Sporting competitors in events run by Always Aim High, such as the Snowdonia Marathon , are also asked if they want to make a donation, from £1 upwards.

A target has been set of enlisting 50 businesses, and talks are ongoing with ventures outside the park, including and Festival No 6 and GreenWood Forest Park , the latter having made a one-off donation.

Project officer Rhian Hughes said: “We have been very pleased with the amount of money raised in such a short time.

“At the Royal Victoria Hotel in Llanberis for example, only two guests have declined to contribute since the scheme was launched.

“It works because it’s entirely voluntary and people know it’s going to very good causes.”

  • The Snowdonia Giving progress meeting is at the Royal Victoria Hotel, Llanberis , on January 23, 7pm-8.30pm.
Lines of cars with penalty notices line the roads in Snowdonia
Lines of cars with penalty notices line the roads in Snowdonia (Photo: Chris Parry)

Parking on farmland under consideration

Since 2007 visitor numbers on Snowdon have more than doubled and the mountain now attracts more footfall than Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike, Mont Blanc and Everest combined.

The sheer volume of walkers, runners and climbers has put a strain on the local infrastructure, added to litter problems and incensed farmers , who must grapple with dogs, erosion and blocked gates.

Parking is another issue, with Snowdon’s Pen y Pass car park often full during summer, leading to overspill on surrounding routes and villages.

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