Parked cars stretched down the road from playpark towards the football pitch at Eoropie in Ness recently as friends and families enjoyed Easter holiday fun at the Eoropie Dunes Playpark.
Yet despite being one of the busiest periods seen at the volunteer run community playpark, the contents of its donation box didn’t reflect the number of visitors.
“We want to encourage young families, but the amount in the donation box is always very, very low,” said Shona Morrison of GAIN, the voluntary group which run the playpark.
“People may ask why we don’t start charging, but we don’t want to do that, we want the park to be available to parents of all incomes. It’s there to be enjoyed by everybody, and if people would pop just 50p or a £1 in the donation box that would really help us.”
Last year Eoropie Dunes Playpark was visited by 11,462 people – raising £453 in the donation box, versus maintenance costs of £4,551. And 2016 figures tell the same story with £378 donated via the box and £3,214 spent.
“We just think a lot of people perhaps don’t realise that the park is run by volunteers and relies on outside funding and donations,” said Shona.
“We do get funding from bodies such as The Big Lottery and in January last year Tesco’s Bags for Life funds raised in the Stornoway store came to us.
“But funds like these are not always guaranteed and there is a lot of time and work behind the scenes finding new funding opportunities and filling out application forms.
“An increase in public donations would ease the pressure. In the summer months we have busloads of people coming through, from nursery and school trips, tourist buses, Sunday school visits and church outings, and if everyone popped a coin in the donation box, we could do so much more.”
And with adequate funding, it seems, the GAIN committee are unstoppable, with a number of major improvements made to the park in recent years, and many more plans for the future.
New tables and log shelters, made by the Sawmill in Stornoway, were installed thanks to Tesco’s Bags for Life funding. The funding also saw the addition of Ollie the Otter and two charming duck wooden carvings made by Uisdean Paterson.
Now in its third year, the Playpark Kiosk was established with Big Lottery funds and employs two local young people, open every Saturday from 11am-4pm and throughout the holidays to provide teas, coffees, drinks and snacks.
And this year the last of the Big Lottery pot was used to purchase and install the park’s new in-ground Trampoline.
“The trampoline is a great addition as it’s accessible for use by those in wheelchairs or with prams,” said Shona. “And it’s big enough that a carer or parent can go on at the same time.
“One of the big things we want to do in the future is make the park as accessible as possible for wheelchair users and for prams. We are also getting closer and closer to having toilets in the park – it’s a number one priority.”
She continued: “We have planning permission and are waiting the building warrant, so we are hoping to have them in place by the end of the year.
“With the new coastal walking routes we’re seeing a lot more tourists enjoying the walk and stopping off at the park, so to be able to offer both refreshments through the kiosk and suitable toilet facilities to them would be great.”
With all the usual summer events – including family barbecues, the Fairy Hunt, and Green Gym Days – to tempt local families, and rave reviews on TripAdvisor attracting visitors, Eoropie Dunes Playpark looks set to be busier than ever this summer.
“TripAdvisor reviews are not only good to read, but they also help us out with funding applications,” said Shona, adding: “The park is so well supported by the community, people always come out to volunteer with our maintenance days and we’re so thankful for that. We also love to welcome visitors to come and enjoy our corner of the island and that the park proves so popular. We’d just like to say a wee reminder about the donation box.”
You can also donate to Eoropie Dunes Playpark via the website – www.eoropiedunespark.co.uk
And keep up to date with all the new happenings and events at the park this summer on Facebook at www.facebook.com/Eoropie-Play-Park