Over 150 invited guests attended a reception organised by the Central Scotland Green Network to highlight the network’s plans for developing The John Muir Coast to Coast Trail, as part of the celebrations to commemorate the centenary of the Scots born naturalist’s death in 2014.
The reception, ‘Bringing John Muir Home’, was held at the Scottish Parliament Garden Lobby and sponsored by Colin Beattie MSP, member for Midlothian North and Musselburgh.
Conservationist John Muir was born in Dunbar in 1838, before emigrating to the United States in 1849.
Amongst his achievements, he is noted as helping to save the Yosemite Valley, was the founder of The Sierra Club – one of the most influential grassroots environmental organisations in the US - and cultivated friendships with the likes of Presidents Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
The CSGN is Europe’s largest greenspace initiative, and will be opening The John Muir Coast to Coast Trail in April 2014, one of many events that will take place during the year to celebrate Muir’s life and honour his legacy.
This new route will run from Dunbar to Helensburgh, passing through nine council areas and the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
It will include the Dunbar to Musselburgh section of the existing John Muir Way in East Lothian.
Keith Geddes, CSGN Partnership Board chair said: “John Muir is considered ‘one of the patron saints of 20th century American environmental activity’. He is noted for being a conservationist, naturalist, geologist, inventor and explorer. However, despite the magnificent efforts of East Lothian Council, the John Muir Trust and the John Muir Museum in Dunbar, Americans tend to know more about him than Scots.
“This is why this extension, which has been made possible with the support of Scottish Natural Heritage, is a fitting way to celebrate a man who through his life, writings and legacy, could inspire a new generation of Scots to recognise the value of nature and the outdoors.
“The extended route will take walkers from Muir’s birthplace to Scotland’s first national park, a great way to highlight the fact that he was born in Scotland and that one of his great achievements was to play a central part in establishing national parks in the United States.”
During the reception broadcaster and wilderness hiker Cameron McNeish provided commentary about John Muir and long distance routes, along with Derek Mackay MSP, Minister for Local Government and Planning, who commented on the project’s vision.
Derek Mackay said: “The international esteem in which John Muir is rightly held will help raise the profile of the excellent environmental work being done by the Central Scotland Green Network partners, ensuring that everyone is made aware of the varied outdoor leisure and recreational opportunities on offer in Central Scotland.”
Cameron McNeish said: “I am delighted that Scotland is re-claiming John Muir as one of our own.
“His wisdom and his philosophy is as important in 21st century Scotland as it was in late 19th century California and we would do well to listen again to his vital messages about how we look after the planet. Muir believed passionately in encouraging people to get out into the green places and I’m sure the new John Muir Coast to Coast Trail will do just that.”
Keith Geddes concluded: “One of the CSGN’s main aims is to support a network of strategic walking and cycling routes for active travel and recreation in Scotland and the new route forms an integral part of this. For example walkers will be able to access the West Highland Way from the extended route.
The event was a fantastic opportunity to let local councillors know exactly what we are hoping to achieve.“
It is anticipated that the extended route will not only celebrate John Muir, but also create significant and lasting economic benefit.
A recent study commissioned by Scottish Natural Heritage estimates that some 700 jobs could be created over the first five years of the route’s existence with an additional 9,000 end to end users over the first year.