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RURAL areas are having to be more creative than ever as they attempt to attract tourists back after the foot and mouth disaster.

In the longer term, maybe this will turn out to be a silver lining to the black cloud of last year's dark days.

The ideas which are now being put forward are more innovative and of a higher quality than ever before.

What the rest of us can do is to take another look at what is on offer and make sure we take advantage of leisure and recreation opportunities - and make sure that these new ideas are allowed to flourish.

One of the most exciting plans on the table at the moment is to create seven mountain biking centres across the South of Scotland.

This pounds 2million project represents the biggest ever public investment in developing mountain biking in Britan and is expected to bring a real boost to the hard-hit Borders area.

Not only will it create 100 jobs in Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders but, once up and running, is forecast to attract as many as half a million visitors each year.

This could be worth a staggering pounds 15million to the local economy.

The project is being managed by a team of local partners, including the Forestry Commission and Scottish Enterprise Dumfries and Galloway.

The local tourist boards and councils are also on board, with additional funding coming from Scottish Natural Heritage, Solway Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The seven new centres will be created in the key Forestry Commission area across the area.

TO be known as the "seven stanes", these will include locations such as the forests at Dalbeattie, Mabie and Glentrool.

The project management team has worked closely with mountain bike clubs to make sure the trails are as challenging and attractive as possible with the added promise of a few thrills among spectacular scenery.

To make sure they can deliver, recruitment is already under way to attract suitably-qualified staff for positions from project management to trail building.

There are more than 22 million mountain bikes in the UK, according to a recent British Cycling Federation survey, so the project is expected to attract a lot of interest.

But even for those who prefer to roll up on four wheels rather than two, there will still be lots to do and see for a family day out.

The project includes the construction of car parks, toilets and picnic areas and some locations will have designated children's play areas.

Robbie Mackintosh, projects manager at SE Dumfries and Galloway, said: "This is a highly-exciting project for both Dumfries and Galloway and the Borders, which will have significant benefits for the rural economy, tourism and the community.

"We are keen to ensure that we maximise the number of job opportunities and take full advantage of the economic spin-offs from increased visitor numbers.

"On completion, we plan to use the centres in both the Ae and Tweed Valley Forests to host regional, national and international mountain bike championships."

It's an ambitious project but lifestyle trends suggest that busy people are seeking more leisure opportunities, especially in the open air.

Town dwellers need places to escape to and the rural areas need the tourist income.

Aside from saddle sores, it could turn out to be a marriage made in heaven.

For information on all the jobs available, write to the personnel officer, Barony College, Parkgate, Dumfries, DG1 3NE or call 01387- 860251.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Feb 7, 2002
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