AN Easter Ross beauty spot loved by walkers is at risk of becoming a no-go zone because of human waste, chemicals and household rubbish dumped there by travellers.
Many dog walkers and local families say they are too worried to visit Alness Point as the level of rubbish and excrement there has hit an all-time high. They say the waste is a potential health hazard and have called for a long-term solution to be hammered out.
Meanwhile, fed-up community activists are taking matters into their own hands this weekend with plans to blitz the area with a clean-up.
Sheila Swinton (67), who lives in Invergordon but used to take her dogs to Alness Point, has been put off doing so because of the mess and has visited on her own to try and clean up the area.
"I tidied an area and took away four big bags but it is so bad you would never have known," she said. "There are dirty nappies and wipes with human excrement on them lying about. I really feel frustrated at having to do this because it is a health and safety problem."
She said the area was a popular play area for children and she felt sorry for the people of Alness who worked hard to keep their community looking good.
Ms Swinton added as there were numerous dog waste and rubbish bins in the area, there was no need for people to be so careless.
"It is a beautiful walk that is being spoiled for so many people and that is what gets to me," she said.
Part of the affected area is owned privately by a frustrated landowner who spends time overseas and has previously complained his appeals for action to relevant authorities have fallen on deaf ears.
Another section is owned by Highlands and Islands Enterprise which secured an eviction order against unauthorised campers.
Sunday’s planned litter pick comes during Keep Britain Tidy’s Great British Spring Clean month of action.
Lauren Wilson of the influential Highland Dogblog has organised the event and created a Facebook group called Friends of Alness Point to bring people together.
She said: "We need to find the landowner and get him on side, or ask him to give the land to someone who will look after it. We need to curb our anger and make sure we do not incite hate speech. Maybe there is a solution, maybe there isn’t, but we’re going to have to try and hate never solved anything."
She believes a long-term change in behaviour from everyone contributing to the problem is essential in the long run "if we’re going to save green spaces".
She added: "At the moment we’re dealing with a large volume of travellers’ refuse but before that we were pulling handfuls of brass shipping nails out of the ponds, tyres, asbestos from the old airfields, dog poo and plastic bottles which are washing up out of the sea at every tide. It’s going to have to be both a short, sharp correction and a sustained response to make a serious difference."
People on social media have also revealed how they have stumbled across used needles and caravan toilets dumped in the area.
Jude Henderson posted on Facebook: "It’s disgusting. I went down there for the first time in months last week and was horrified by the amount of rubbish."
Another Facebook user, Karen Taylor, added: "I haven’t walked there for about two years as have had the odd cut toe. I did not report it. But what really clinched it was when my friend’s dog, a white Westie, ran into the long grass and came out blue. Someone had emptied their chemical toilet in the field."
A spokeswoman from Highland Council said the authority was aware of the issue.
She said: "The land affected is privately owned by two owners. Highland and Islands Enterprise are one of the owners and the council is trying to ascertain the other.
"The council does not have responsibility for management or enforcement of unauthorised camps on land that is in the ownership of another public agency or in private ownership although it will act in an advisory capacity within its general duties."
An HIE spokesperson said: "We understand and share the frustrations of many people over the mess at Alness Point. As soon as we became aware of the problems we alerted the police and instructed our agents to secure an eviction order for the removal of the unauthorised campers.
"Following their removal, we arranged for the leftover rubbish and damaged wooden fence to be removed from the site. Having since been made aware of the Friends of Alness Point’s actions to also remove rubbish, we are extremely grateful to everyone who stepped in to help clear up the site.
"We would encourage all users of Alness Point – the public, resident and businesses – to remain vigilant about any future instances of this type of activity and to alert HIE through our managing agents Graham & Sibbald on 01463 236977 and the police as soon as possible, as eviction orders can take some time to obtain and enforce."
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