Plans to boost the popularity of a rural attraction, acclaimed as “the jewel in Buchan’s crown”, have forged ahead with the launch of a new funding appeal.
Aden Country Park has already undergone the first phase of a proposed £2million regeneration project to secure its future for generations to come.
But fears remain that the centuries-old story of the 93-hectare site outside Mintlaw is “under threat” of being forgotten unless the scheme is completed.
The park has been owned by Aberdeenshire Council since the 1970s, and the authority is pledging £180,000 towards the redevelopment programme.
The application for a fresh chunk of cash will be submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund next week, and park representatives will update the Buchan Area Committee on the plans on Tuesday.
Neil Shirran was appointed as the park’s project and funding officer as the first phase of the development was rolled out.
He said: “We are renovating buildings, we are creating a new visitor centre, we are putting in things like a new play park and improving the courtyard area.
“There is a whole range of different aspects, and over the last year we have been working on the development phase.
“Improving the park would have a huge impact on the community, our heritage and for visitors.
“We are hopeful we can get the money to deliver it, but things are not set in stone.”
Plans to rejuvenate the picturesque spot began to take shape more than two years ago, and the Heritage Lottery Fund agreed to donate £149,500 towards the first phase in June 2016.
The park cafe, entrance gates and toilets have all been upgraded since then, and visitor numbers soared to an all-time high of 352,000 between 2016 and 2017.
Dozens of new features are included in a masterplan outlining the second stage of the development.
They include establishing a shared pedestrian and cycle path, and the creation of holiday let accommodation for Forester’s Cottage.
The masterplan also details proposals for wildlife and farming trails.
Edinburgh-based Jura Consultants have completed an 85-page report documenting the improvements.
It states: “On the surface, Aden physically appears in relatively good order, but the need to undertake restoration and redevelopment has been recognised for some time.
“There is a risk that without the appropriate investment, the unique story of rural land-use on the former Aden Estate is being under-represented, missed, and is therefore under threat.”
The Friends of Aden Park, a community group which aims to safeguard the attraction’s future through volunteer-driven initiatives, welcomed the scheme’s progress last night.
Linda Bolger said: “If we get the funding it will be magic, it is really exciting and we are looking forward to, hopefully, being successful.”