Young people are to take their place at the heart of decision-making for Northumberland National Park with the creation of the country’s first National Park Youth Cabinet, which was launched by Environment Minister Rory Stewart.
The new cabinet will give local people aged 16-25 an active role in governing their National Park and encouraging others to help look after it.
Launching the cabinet yesterday, Mr Stewart said: “With more than 90 million annual visitors to our National Parks they are an essential and very valuable part of rural life, bringing jobs and investment. It’s absolutely right young people – the future custodians of our natural world – have a say in how they are run.
“Important projects like this make that happen, giving teenagers and young adults first-hand understanding of their true value – not just in monetary terms – but as part of our precious natural heritage.”
Glen Sanderson, chairman of Northumberland National Park Authority, said: “We were very pleased to welcome the Minister to Northumberland National Park where he met some of the young people involved in our brand new youth cabinet and taken part in some of our exciting and popular National Parks Week activities.
“We have enjoyed working with young people for a long time – through apprenticeships, training schemes and our wide range of activities – and we genuinely value the creativity and inspiration that young people bring.
“Our youth cabinet puts young people at the heart of what we do at the National Park as they are an integral part of the decision-making process and we listen and learn much from their views.
“National Parks are among Britain’s most valued treasures and we are ensuring that we do all we can to encourage young people to learn about, explore, and care for our National Parks so that future generations can continue to enjoy these national assets for years to come.”
Ian Riddle, 25, from Bellingham, joined the youth cabinet to encourage other young people to get involved in the National Park.
He said: “Northumberland National Park has always been very special to me. My family have farmed in the National Park for four generations and I am passionate about the outdoors, the environment and conservation.
“Through involvement with the National Park, I have attended exchange visits to see how other countries address issues for young people in rural areas. I’m therefore really pleased to be involved in the youth cabinet and happy to be here as it is officially launched by the Minister.
“I think it’s really important for young people to have their say and have the opportunity to get involved with the Park. The cabinet offers young people from all backgrounds and walks of life the chance to have our voices heard and influence how the National Park is run.”
Marking National Parks Week, the Minister also launched the #PhotointhePark social media campaign, encouraging young people and families to post pictures of their favourite National Park moments on social media over the summer holidays.
The Minister’s visit to the Park takes place during National Parks Week. The week-long initiative is an annual celebration of National Parks across the UK. It started on Monday and runs until Sunday.
As part of the visit, the Minister met young people from the Youth Mosaic Project, who act as champions for the Park as well as volunteers who are contributing to the upkeep of National Trails.
This project is aimed at young people, aged 16 to 25, from surrounding urban areas, including Newcastle, East Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and Carlisle, to teach them about the natural environment, while improving both their health and job prospects.