A PROFESSIONALLY trained security team is the latest initiative in helping restore an air of peace and tranquillity to a favourite Saddleworth beauty spot.
The Dovestone Marshals were on duty for the first time last month at the reservoir at Greenfield which, over recent weekends, has been besieged by visitors.
In April, blazes started by arsonists were tackled by 80 firefighters on hills above the reservoir.
Then with a spell of glorious weather over May’s first bank holiday, there was a massive upsurge of tourists, leaving behind a trail of litter and rubbish.
Reports of drug taking, excessive drinking and barbecues – banned because of the risk of moorland fires – have all been reported.
Incidents of swimming and boating – prohibited under reservoir regulations – have also occurred.
Numerous empty metal canisters of nitrous oxide (also known as laughing gas) have also been found in the vicinity.
Saddleworth’s policing team moved in to control traffic issues which had led to distraught families nearby being marooned in their homes at Forty Row.
And rescue services fear lives are being put at risk because of cars double-parked and abandoned on any available space by unthinking drivers on the approach to the Peak District National Park gem.
Worried locals have demanded more “boots on the ground” in a series of communications to the RSPB, United Utilities, the Peak District National Park and Oldham Council.
And, backed by Greenfield and Grasscroft Residents Association (GGRA), a new action group has been formed to push changes.
A first step has seen the introduction of Dovestone Marshals, who will patrol the entrance and supervise a gate leading to Dovestone Sailing Club, which is on a private road for members and badge holders only.
The marshals will be initially funded by the RSPB and led by local police.
Dr Andrew Taylor, chair of GGRA, says they have concerns about the valley’s future but are pressing for short-term plans seeking external funding, volunteers, watch rotas and working in coalition with partners.
“There have been new highs of misbehaviour and new lows of site management effectiveness in the area,” he claimed.
“Private vehicles caused gridlock, illegal parking, obstruction to residents and emergency services and general disregard for rules of politeness and care for the countryside.
“Illegal barbecues have been taken to the area, antisocial behaviour, obstruction and verbal and physical abuse have been witnessed alongside trespass and site damage.
“Partner organisations have been doing their very best but they are overwhelmed.
“There were outstanding efforts by police, small modifications and increased staff attendance but there is a lot more to do.
“We need a meeting with all the partner organisations to raise awareness and to seek funding to enact plans which might ameliorate the situation.”
One campaigner who witnessed “chaos” caused by visitors last month said: “It can’t carry on as it is.
“It is going from a beauty spot to a sh**-hole. I’m sick to the back teeth of what I see week in, week out.
“We have to do something to deter these people: not the ones who love the environment but those who just come to cause havoc.”
And Matt Neild, leader of Oldham Mountain Rescue Team, told a recent meeting of stakeholders how excessive traffic is impacting on their ability to save lives.
“We had two call outs – the first one we were lucky and up near the top,” he explained.
“The second one we weren’t and it took us approximately 35 minutes to get from Bank Lane to the Sailing Club and back out with the blue light running such was the chaos and the mayhem.
“Our concern is that lives are being put at risk by cars blocking access to Dovestone.”
Is the recruitment of marshals an over the top reaction to Dovestone issues or is it much needed?
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