The Future of Coed y Brenin Appears in Question

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Coed y Brenin the original and iconic trail centre appears under threat (the visitors centre and cafe) as Natural Resources Wales (NRW) is undertaking a review of several Welsh centres including Coed y Brenin (near Dolgellau), Bwlch Nant yr Arian (near Aberystwyth), and Ynyslas (between Machynlleth and Aberystwyth).

The BBC reported in December that "Natural Resources Wales (NRW) said its visitor centres were a much-loved resource but public funding was exceptionally tight, prompting the review". The announcement of their future and how they will operate is expected in March.

North Wales Live has also reported that Plaid Cymru has raised this issue in the Senedd and that local people are campaigning against the closure threat.

In the Senedd, there is support, MS Mabon ap Gwynfor MS had said: "These centres attract thousands of visitors annually, both local and from afar - contributing significantly to our local economies and are a key player in supporting preventative health measures. I’m sure the First Minister will agree with me that closing any one of these centres would be damaging. What steps is the government taking to secure the future of these important centres?"

First Minister Mark Drakeford had said like all public bodies NRW were facing financial pressures. But he added that he hoped they took on board what Mr ap Gwynfor and local people want to safeguard.

There is also much speculation in the MTB media about how the centre may / may not live up to current rider expectations. This although understandable given the lack of new trails over the last five years doesn't stop it being a fully fledged all ability centre for the vast majority of riders by most standards and has approximatley 100,000 visitors a year (although numbers have been dwindling). It's also one of many different types of riding centres in the region acting as a beacon for the area from far and wide.

I realise all funds are tight but I hope the NRW is looking at the mid and long-term wider economic benefit MTB in mid and North Wales offers to the region as a world-leading MTB destination for trips away.

The wider region with the likes of Dyfi, Lllandegla, and Antur Stiniog alongside Coed y Brenin to name but a few operates as an ecosystem to bring visitors to the region. Losing one impacts all. I also hope that however much of a real challenge it is NRW is not driving such a long-term fundamentally hard-to-row-back-on decision based mainly on the short-term recent reality of how COVID and the subsequent economic cost of living crisis (especially for fuel) has impacted travel and tourism.

The long-term viability of Wales as an MTB destination across traditional trail centres, bike parks and off-peak riding exists as a rich synergistic ecosystem. In economic terms, this is an agglomeration effect where the sum is equal to much more than the individual parts and so all these riding centres should be invested in for the economic, social, and community health and the awesome fun value they bring.

NRW held a public meeting at Ganllwyd Community Council on February 1 for Coed y Brenin's future. So I assume we will have an idea in the next few days, weeks, or hopefully not months on the direction of travel. We understand it is mainly the visitors centre and the cafe at risk or in need of a new commercial model to be sustainable as the centre loses approximately £350,000 a year and has a approximately a million pounds worth of repairs needed i.e. the trails themselves are not directly impacted potentially.

Although the potential impact of losing these facilities at the trail centre may not in the short term affect the trails it is challenging to think they would by default be easily sustainable without the whole facility in operation. Let's hope this doesn't happen either way or a new model is found.

In our opinion the Scottish government should be pulling out their thumb, fully investing, including new trails and finding competent management to run it. This would not happen in Scotland.

If you are interested in the future of Canolfan Coed y Brenin Centre, you can complete this questionnaire.

Is this NRW review the beginning of a bigger trend? Is this the canary in the coal mine for Welsh Trail Cenres? Is it a storm in a teacup and the trails will live on regardless and who needs a visitors centre anyhow? What role should the MTB community be playing? Visiting and spending more of our cash when at these facilities seems like a good start. Writing to the Welsh government even better. 

Let us know what you think of this development in the Comments and Discussion section below.

 

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