Building work has begun on a new underpass that will transform public access at RSPB Scotland Loch Leven, and help everyone to get safely across a busy road.
The underpass will create an accessible link between the Loch Leven Heritage Trail and the Fife Path Network replacing an old tunnel under the B9097, which has steep steps at each end.
However, although the diggers are now on site, a small funding gap remains, and RSPB Scotland has launched a crowdfunding campaign with the hopes of raising £19,000 towards the cost of the project.
RSPB Scotland Loch Leven reserve manager Uwe Stoneman, said: “The underpass at Loch Leven is a partnership project that has taken years to develop, so it’s very exciting to be at this final stage of the process.
“It’s going to make a huge difference to many of our visitors, and will put the whole area at the forefront of disabled access in Scotland.
“Work on the underpass is already underway, but despite very generous funding from Sustrans, Scottish Natural Heritage, Perth and Kinross Council and others, we still have a shortfall of £19,000.
“We’re very much hoping that the public will get behind this project and help us raise the final amount, and we’ve got some great rewards on offer in return for pledges.”
The Loch Leven Heritage Trail, completed in 2014, provides a 13-mile, barrier free route around the loch and welcomes more than 200,000 visitors a year. It is wheelchair accessible and has a mobility scooter hire scheme that is free for anyone to use.
The RSPB Scotland reserve at Loch Leven hosts part of the trail, and its visitor centre and car park are key facilities for trail users. But the steep steps in the underpass make it difficult for cyclists and families with pushchairs to access, and create a barrier for wheelchair and mobility scooter users.
The new underpass will also create an accessible link between the Loch Leven Heritage Trail and the so-called ‘Sleeping Giant’ path, which was created in 2016.
Dave Morris, a local community councillor and the former director of Ramblers Scotland, said: “Nowhere else in the UK is there such a facility, connecting together two extensive path networks, through magnificent landscapes and wildlife habitats, where access rights apply to everyone.
“Let’s dig a bit more and hopefully see the RSPB crowdfunding target of £19,000.”
To donate go to www.crowdfunder.co.uk/loch-leven-underpass.