Worried campaigners concerned over the future of one of the Harrogate area's oldest and most important green spaces has issued new figures which it claims prove its popularity.
A recent survey of Nidd Gorge and Greenway users has found that 1,791 people passed through just one of the ten entrances to the beautiful woodland area between Harrogate and Knaresborough over the survey weekend of 14th and 15th October.
Conducted by Nidd Gorge Community Action, campaigning against the proposed Inner Relief Roads which may threaten this much-loved recreational green space, the survey helped to gather some facts and figures in an effort to show the amenity value of the Nidd Gorge for locals and visitors alike.
Standing at the Greenway entrance on Bilton Lane, from 8am to 6pm on Saturday and Sunday, volunteers counted 781 Greenway users on Saturday and 1007 on Sunday.
A survey of 483 of the weekend visitors, revealed that 32% of those sampled used the area for cycling; 31% for dog walking; 29% for walking; 7% for running; and 1% for other purposes including horse riding and birdwatching.
It was also notable that a number of visitors were accessing the countryside with mobility scooters and wheelchairs via the Greenway track.
The survey also revealed that 80% of the users were from the Harrogate area, with a substantial 20% being from out of town.
A total of 51% of the Harrogate visitors were from HG1, whilst 10% of the out of towners were from Leeds and York postcode districts – confirming the area, not only as a valued amenity for locals, but also as a natural tourist attraction for the local economy.
Significantly, the vast majority of the 10% of people from further afield than Leeds and York had come to walk through Nidd Gorge - attracted possibly by the recent publicity the Gorge has received in the national press, as one of the country’s top walks.
When asked for their views on the inner relief road proposals, 83% were ‘strongly opposed’ and 12% ‘opposed’ to either of the proposed road options that will pass through the recreational area.
A spokesperson for NGCA said: “We have known all along that this area was well-loved and well-used by local residents and visitors, for recreation and healthy pursuits, and these figures now prove it.
"The total number of users passing this one checkpoint, over the weekend, is overwhelming evidence that this is the wrong place to build a road.
"This area is a natural asset for the town, for tourism and the economy; and is a vital amenity for the health of the people.
"A better solution is needed to tackle congestion.
"Relief roads don’t work and to divert the A59 through here would be catastrophic for all the people who depend on it for their health and well-being.
"It should be treasured and celebrated, not ruined by traffic, noise and pollution. Would they re-route Ripon Road through The Valley Gardens?”