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Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) is appealing for help from the people of Campbeltown to keep a tree felling site at Beinn Ghuilean safe after warning signs were vandalised and removed.
The Scottish Government agency made the call after the destruction and removal of some of the safety signs and barriers at the site where felling work to tackle the tree disease Phytophthora ramorum is set to resume on Monday (June 29).
Felling was stopped in March as the COVID-19 lockdown came in to effect. However, timber that had been felled up to that point has been regularly despatched from the site to supply processors with the essential materials needed to support the national effort to combat the coronavirus pandemic.
Jo Maclean, FLS’s area visitor services manager, said: ‘Active forestry sites are dangerous, which is why we take great care to ensure the public is advised of the risk and given guidance and directions that will ensure they are protected.
‘It is extremely disappointing that over the past couple of months some of our safety signs and barriers have been deliberately removed. It’s important that this signage remains visible to people because even though there might not seem to be any forestry activity on site, there are still dangers to be avoided.’
FLS warns that dangers include heavy machinery, falling trees, and machine operators who are so focused on their task that they may not hear or see people – or their dogs – who wander onto the site. Even when there are no tell-tale signs of forestry work taking place, FLS said there are risks present in timber stacks and even felling residues that can be ‘lethally sharp’.
Ms Maclean added: ‘Ahead of work resuming, we will be putting new signage in place and we would urge all members of the public to follow the guidance.
‘Ignoring the signs and walking into restricted areas – even when there appears to be no work taking place at that moment – is dangerous. I am urging all visitors to please keep well away from work zones at all times.
‘We would also encourage anyone who witnesses vandalism, or who knows of any incidents where safety signage has been removed, to report it to Police Scotland on the 101 number.’
FLS has already referred several reports of anti-social behaviour to the local police.
In May, the Courier reported that Campbeltown’s mountain biking community was concerned about the potentially disastrous outcomes from what was believed to be the ‘deliberate sabotaging’ of trails on Beinn Ghuilean. The bikers also witnessed people appearing to break the strict lockdown rules at the time by visiting the hill in groups, as well as an increase in rubbish in the area.
It is not known if any of these incidents are related.
Police Scotland said officers have been carrying out extra patrols in the area in response to the incidents on Beinn Ghuilean. On at least one occasion, officers were on foot on the hill and several youths ran off on seeing the officers approaching.
It is anticipated that felling at Beinn Ghuilean is likely to continue throughout the year. As well as catching up with the delayed programme of felling, the FLS team might also have to extend the work if further instances of Phytophthora ramorum infection are found.
Access restrictions are in place from the Tomaig Road/Narrowfield entrance, as well as other locations near the work machinery. There will be no through route and/or access along this route for the duration of operations.