The public sector partners that contributed to the success of the first two phases of the 7stanes MTB project in southern Scotland have agreed to continue to support the project for a further three years.
£1m will be spent on supporting business associated with the 7stanes, individually and collectively; encouraging the growth of mountain biking events and competitions; increasing business participation in promoting the 7stanes; and
maintaining and improving the existing trails and trailhead infrastructure.
Scotland's Minister for the Environment, Michael Russell, said:
"The 7stanes has been a major success story, not only for the south of Scotland but also in building Scotland's image world-wide as an outstanding destination for mountain bikers. The continuation of this successful public and private sector partnership will not only reinforce Scotland's reputation in the sport, but will bring wider benefits to businesses and communities alike."
The 7stanes team will be retained by Forestry Commission Scotland to deliver the project aims on behalf of the partners. The partners include Scottish Enterprise, Dumfries and Galloway Council, Scottish Borders Council and VisitScotland, with additional support being sought from Solway Heritage and Scottish Natural Heritage.
Over the next three years, the project will look to identify new business opportunities linked to the increasing number of mountain biking visitors, as well as targeting a series of initiatives to ensure the 7stanes continues to maximise economic, tourism and business benefits. Other work includes exploring training opportunities in areas such as mountain biking technology and trail building disciplines, improving forest interpretation, supporting the World Mountain Biking Conference in Dumfries in 2009 and refining the current national and international marketing.
Alan Elliot of Scottish Enterprise said:
“Scottish Enterprise supports businesses to achieve their full potential in a regional, national and international context and the development of the 7stanes has led to 400,000 visitors a year to the various sites, generating significant returns for businesses.
"We firmly believe there is even more potential to increase the economic impact from the 7stanes so we are pleased to financially contribute support for further development of visitor packages and improved marketing of the 7stanes for the next three years.
A research report - 7stanes Phase 2 Evaluation - commissioned by Forestry Commission Scotland earlier this year revealed that the 7stanes helped to boost the economy in southern Scotland by increasing the annual visitor spend to over £9m in 2007.
Visitor numbers to the trail centres - such as at Glentress - have more than doubled since 2004, rising to some 400,000 per year.
The project has helped create 205 full time equivalent jobs in southern Scotland.
The number of mountain bikers who bring their children with them has also increased to 15 per cent - from 10 per cent in 2004.
The total number of visitors riding all the 7stanes puts it amongst the top 20 visitor attractions in Scotland.