A fundraising appeal has been launched to replace a fire-ravaged bird hide at one of Scotland’s most visited nature reserves.
Two youngsters, aged 14 and 16, have been reported to the Children’s Panel in connection with last month’s blaze at Loch Leven, Kinross-shire.
Encouraged by heartfelt offers of support and aid from the local community, NatureScot – the agency responsible for the country’s natural heritage – is now turning to the public to help raise the £35,000 needed to rebuild the shelter.
The Mill Hide was set up on the edge of the loch, behind the Todd and Duncan factory, 10 years ago. It has won two awards for its architectural design.
Reserve manager Neil Mitchell said: “The hide was hugely popular, with so many people enjoying this wonderful vantage point for the ducks, geese and swans that feed and roost in Factory Bay – as well as the occasional glimpse of a kingfisher.
“While it is gutting to see it destroyed, the response from the community and the general public has been amazing.
“Given this bird watching site’s popularity and fantastic lochside location, we are determined to replace the hide as soon as possible.”
The charred remains of the shelter have been fenced off to protect visitors. It is likely to be dismantled and removed later this month.
NatureScot said it needs a “significant contribution” from the community, alongside some available funding, to begin work on the new hide before the end of the year.
Mr Mitchell said: “We’ve been overwhelmed by the number of people offering support, so we’ve decided to begin our first ever crowdfunding effort with the aim of re-building the hide as soon as possible.”
Kinross Community Council chairwoman Lynne McKay added: “While we were pleased that no one was injured in the fire, we were all shocked and saddened by the destruction of one of Loch Leven’s treasured loch-side facilities.
“With its award-winning design and vantage point in a beautiful spot at the south-west of the loch, the hide was a much-loved building.
“Neil has told us that support from the local community and friends and family from far and wide has been both overwhelming and heart-warming.
“Like all the residents of Kinross, the Perth and Kinross councillors and Kinross community councillors are fully behind the crowdfunding initiative that NatureScot intends to launch.
“It is hoped it will enable the re-building of the hide so that it can be restored to its former glory.”
NatureScot manages the Loch Leven Nature Reserve on behalf of Kinross Estate Company, and along with RSPB Scotland at the Vane Farm part of the site.