Plans to create a “world-class” visitor experience at the Highland Wildlife Park have been given a huge boost.
The team at the Kincraig-based attraction revealed their vision to create Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre earlier this year and set up a Crowdfunder to help.
But now the National Lottery has awarded the park £1.9million funding.
The visitor experience will be a learning gateway to the Cairngorms, connecting people with nature and enabling visitors and local communities to protect endangered species.
It will have space for exhibitions, education, a function room, cafe and shop.
Not only will the development attract visitors and boost the local economy, but it will offer jobs and training opportunities. It is hoped work can start later this year or early next year and be completed in 2023.
“We can create a truly special, world class experience.”
Chief executive David Field said the team hopes the centre will inspire young people and their respective communities to immerse themselves in nature.
He said: “It is tremendously exciting to be able to move forwards with our plans for Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre at Highland Wildlife Park.
“With this vital support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, we can create a truly special, world-class experience which will play a pivotal role in inspiring more children, young people and local communities to protect and connect with nature and wildlife.
“Here in the spectacular Cairngorms National Park, the new innovative spaces in our discovery hubs will give visitors the opportunity to find out about Scotland’s wildlife heritage and how they can help with conservation initiatives including our charity’s projects to save native species like the wildcat, pond mud snail and pine hoverfly.”
Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre
Scotland’s Wildlife Discovery Centre will comprise of a series of new wildlife discovery hubs spread out across the existing park, near Aviemore.
Made up of three education hubs, the discovery, learning and hilltop buildings will feature immersive experiences and digital technology to challenge visitors, inspire action and encourage learning.
Park officials say the build will help connect people with nature and enable visitors and communities to protect endangered animals.
Boost to Highland Tourism
The crucial investment arises amidst a difficulty year for the park, after being forced to close to visitors twice during to the pandemic.
A recent Highland & Islands Enterprise Impact of Covid survey reported tourism was one of the worst hit sectors in the region with visitor spend likely down by as much as £584m.
Caroline Clark, Director Scotland of The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said the centre will be a pivotal element in boosting the tourism economy.
She said: “This is an exciting and much needed project which will improve the experience of visitors and support the tourism economy of the Highlands.
“Thanks to players of the National Lottery more, and new, visitors to the park will be able to learn about and enjoy Scotland’s amazing wildlife and biodiversity.
“We particularly welcome the RZSS team’s ambition to drive environmental sustainability through green building design and a focus on renewable technologies.
“This last year has been difficult for everyone in different ways and the road to recovery will be equally challenging. We are very pleased to be able to support this important project which will contribute to the recovery of the tourism economy of the Highlands and Islands.”
The project has already attracted £980,000 from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), managed by the Scottish Government and awarded through the Natural Cultural and Heritage Fund, led by NatureScot. It is also supported by pledges from Highlands and Islands Enterprise and SSE Renewables.
A Crowdfunder was also held this year to raise £50,000 towards the project.