A NEW pressure group hopes to persuade politicians to take positive action to protect the miles of green lanes criss-crossing the Manx countryside from damage by off-road vehicles.
Green Lanes Our Heritage (GLOH) believes the time has come for the government to implement a proper strategy to maintain and conserve the various ancient ways which in some cases are thousands of years old.
Top of the group’s agenda is damage caused by off-road vehicles which members feel are endangering the island’s heritage.
A spokesman for the group said: ‘The damage is on-going and getting worse. The lanes are being systematically destroyed and a lot is being done by visiting bikes from England as well as our own.’
Moreover, he said Department of Infrastructure repairs involved scraping off the surface creating an ugly scar on the landscape.
‘We wanted to bring this to people’s attention,’ he said.
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The website (www.iomgreenlanes.co.uk) contains up to 500 pictures of 12 different sections of track, including the Millennium Way and he hopes the result will be a change in government policy on managing the green lanes.
In 2006 plans to introduce a permit system for motor-cycles similar to that used by four-wheel-drive vehicles were dropped. GLOH feels the policy of closing the more vulnerable lanes during the winter months is not encough, particularly after one of the wettest periods of weather on record.
‘If the government fails to act now I can see 80 to 90 per cent of the green lanes being lost, having survived for thousands of years. Over the past 10 years they are being systematically wrecked by people who care little for them,’ he said.
Richard Crane, secretary of the Isle of Man Four-wheel drive club, who set up the Green Lane Users’ Group to look after the interests of all the different parties said while he broadly agreed with many of the aims he disputed the group’s means.
The scraping off repair method used by the DoI he agreed was too extreme and for that reason volunteers in his club had spent many hours of their own time at weekends maintaining sections of green lanes and clearly marking their route to prevent people straying into the countryside. The users’ group involved representatives from tourism, highways and forestry as well as walkers.
‘Some of the responsibility [for the scraping off policy] must lie with GLOH who have been so vocal that the DoI has been motivated to take this action.’
He accused the GLOH website of being misleading to the public with inaccurate information.
‘In some cases the photographs are old ones showing how it used to look,’ he said.
‘The important issue is the degree of use. It’s worth remembering they spent millions recently in Snowdon repairing damage caused by walkers.’
He said measures such as introducing a permit system for all vehicles, closing paths in wet weather, rather than just winter, and better signposting could all be advantageous.
The GLOH spokesman defended the website and said all pictures were taken only last year.
Bill Corlett of the DoI defended the practice of scraping off the green lane surfaces.
‘From an engineering point of view it is the best approach,’ he said. ‘You get a good surface, it lets water run off and it’s easy to maintain and stands up better to the weather. How do you fill in the ruts without scraping them off?
‘It will eventually grass over again and the sides will re-vegetate. This has happened with the pipeline track from the Round Table to Glen Maye which was done about six years ago.’