Last summer the Ardroy Outdoor Education Centre in Lochgoilhead – within the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park was closed by Fife Council to save £290,000 a year and was destined to be sold off for private housing.
The centre has helped shape the lives of tens of thousands of youngsters in the past 40 years, yet is was closed in a short termist action and in the face of a 7,000 strong petition urging a re-think.
Not to be denied, knowing the value of this centre and that it could be run sustainably, a volunteer group led by retired businessmen, George Bruce from Dunoon set themselves the challenge of keeping the centre open.
After a series of setbacks, the bid to re-open and run the Centre by a new social enterprise, AOEC Trust Ltd was supported by Fife Council on the understanding that it would cost the council nothing.
Since last November the reopened Ardroy has seen more than 2,000 children – from Fife and as far afield as the inner cities of Liverpool and Manchester – enjoy life changing environmental and outdoor educational experiences – and the centre has a healthy order book for 2013.
Some funding support to re-open the centre came from a variety of sources including the Robertson Trust, Moulsdale Foundation, Gannochy Trust, Firstport and the Friends of Loch Lomond and The Trossachs. After that, the centre has quickly become self-sufficient and should be able to continue delivering worthwhile outdoor educational experiences for young people for many years to come.
George Bruce is delighted with the progress made in the first year and is convinced that the new charitable trust he leads is well on the way to ensuring the long term sustainability of Ardroy as one of Scotland’s leading Outdoor Education Centres.
He stresses that they still need support to carry out improvements to the centre and help it realise its full potential, saying: ‘We passionately believed in Ardroy and what it could do to inspire thousands of children and improve their life chances and it has been great to see the centre buzzing again with the laughter and excitement of young children enjoying learning experiences and making new friends.
‘We are grateful for all the support and encouragement we have received from many quarters including parents, other members of the public, various Trusts and advisers, and of course Fife Council, who have given us the chance to enrich thousands of children’s lives in this wonderful part of the National Park.’
Commenting on the Ardroy rescue success story, local MSP Michael Russell says: ‘This has been a truly magnificent and selfless effort by George and his support team and I am very impressed with what the new social enterprise AOEC Trust Ltd has achieved in a very short period of time and I wish them every success in the future.
‘This is a great example of what can be achieved by the voluntary sector with philanthropic support from some of Scotland’s most successful businesses and the public.
‘It also means thousands of young Scots will have the opportunity to develop a better understanding and appreciation of Scotland’s wonderful environment while enjoying what for many will be their first outdoor adventure sports experiences.’