COUNTRY parks across Hampshire are set for a boost from a £12.9m fund.
The county council hopes that spending money in the parks will boost visitor numbers and lead to them becoming financially self-sustaining.
The money will be split between the county’s six country parks – Queen Elizabeth, Staunton, Manor Farm near Bursledon, Titchfield Haven National Nature Reserve, Lepe in the New Forest and Royal Victoria near Southampton, .
Leader of council Cllr Roy Perry said: ‘The parks have added to the lives of millions of people over the last 40 years and have been well cared for, attracting over 1.2m visitors a year.’
He said the changing age profile in the county, along with a change in people’s priorities, has led to visitors expecting more from their visits to the country parks.
He added: ‘In these difficult financial times, if we want the parks to thrive for generations to come, we must consider how we can work to address these demands and ensure good value, as well as maximising profit.’
‘We also need to ensure that any investment in our parks would also result in significant long-term savings as they become self-financing.’
Cllr Perry visited Titchfield Haven this week to see how its share of the money could be put to good use, joined by Titchfield county councillor Geoff Hockley.
Cllr Perry said: ‘Titchfield Haven will be one of the first to benefit from this investment. It really is a very beautiful area.’
The plans are to put in a new wooden gate to replace a metal one at the entrance to the water way on Bridge Street.
A walkway from these gates to the cow bridge will be raised to protect it in wet weather.
Cllr Hockley praised the upgrade plans.
He said: ‘If you have ever been down that path, you will know it can be very muddy as it floods when the river breaks its banks.
‘The new walkway will be lifted and raised and made suitable for people to walk on in all weather.
‘Titchfield Haven is the second-best bird reserve in the country and it’s important that its facilities reflect that.’
The council’s cash will transform the six country parks over five years, with the money coming from a mix of external funding, contributions from council partners, the Heritage Lottery Fund and council reserves. Details of how the money will be spent have not been decided.