North West Wales

Row over new Snowdon path surface

Part of the Miners' Track on Snowdon
Image caption The mountain is already busy, according to critics

A project to create a tarmac surface on part of a path on Snowdon has been criticised.

The Miners' Track is a popular starting point for walkers attempting the 1,085m (3,560ft) peak from Pen-y-Pass.

Critics want a natural-looking surface and some worry that making the path available for wheelchair users could put more pressure on the mountain.

Snowdonia National Park says it is part of a bid to improve access to the area for all users.

John Ellis Roberts, a former Snowdonia National Park warden and experienced walker, said he sympathised with anyone with access problems but there were areas within the park where they could go.

"They [the national park] have banned bike users from using the mountain at certain times, then they invite wheelchair users, so they are lessening the pressure on the mountain on one hand, but adding to it on another," he added.

He also said the type of surface was inappropriate as more "natural" materials should have been used.

"It's possible too that people using motorised wheelchairs will get into trouble, and there are already enough problems on the mountain with people being ill-prepared and badly equipped," he added.

The scheme is seen as an extension of access for the less able bodied within the park according to the Snowdonia National Park authority's chairman, Caerwyn Roberts.

"Park wardens have already been doing a fantastic job with wheelchair users and the blind, taking them on walks," he said.

'Open to all'

In view of this success the idea to improve "rougher" sections of the Miners' Track was then put before the park's disability forum, he added.

The feeling there was that anyone who has experience of a wheelchair will know that it is hard work, and so it was decided to improve 100m of path - in three sections - up to Llyn Llydaw.

Mr Roberts said he was disappointed with the response.

He said critics did not realise that they too may have access problems in the future, and "national parks are open to all".

"This is an experiment, and I am a little angry that the criticism has come before the work has a chance to be completed even," he said.

"Dust is being added to make it a lighter colour, to blend in with the natural stone, and we will be looking at how this works," he added.

'Confidence boost'

Louise Wright, the chief executive of the Back-up Trust - which works with spinal injury sufferers and their families - welcomed any access improvements.

The trust organises sponsored wheelchair "pushes" - one of which was up Snowdon.

"It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the material used for the path," she said.

"But it is important that everyone has the opportunity of going up a mountain, as it is so empowering and hugely rewarding," she added.

Ms Wright said the resulting boost to confidence made the "daily grind" easier.

"Everyone should have the opportunity to do this kind of thing," she said.

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