IT has emerged that the National Trust had planned to introduce admission charges for the free Enniskillen Parkrun because not enough local runners who used the site had signed up for membership.
The revelation comes as the weekly 5k run moves from the Castlecoole estate to the Lakeland Forum from this Saturday, September 3rd. The Trust previously insisted the decision to relocate the event was “mutual” and due to the long-term conservation impact at the estate. It denied that participants had been asked to pay an admission charge, however a leaked letter has provided evidence that a request was made to charge local runners.
Written correspondence on May 30th from Fermanagh National Trust general manager Jim Chestnutt to a director of Enniskillen Parkrun reveals that runners would be asked to pay up.
A meeting was held between Trust and Parkrun representatives two days previously when Mr Chestnutt announced his intention to offer Parkrun at Castlecoole a “renewed licence subject to the property’s normal admission policy effective from 1 July”.
In the letter Mr Chestnutt notes that since Parkrun started at Castlecoole in 2014, the Trust had put their “normal admission policy into abeyance” to allow an increase in membership. He expressed his disappointment that only 20 per cent of runners had become fully fledged members, meaning that 80 per cent could use facilities for free while others pay the entrance fee.
He wrote: “The majority of participants are not contributing directly to the care of Castlecoole, whilst other visitors and especially members of the local community are expected to adhere to our normal admission policy.
“I realise this news may be disappointing, but the current situation is unfair to other visitors who are actively contributing to the care of Castlecoole and despite your efforts and ours the majority of Parkrun participants have not demonstrated their support for the work that the Trust, as a charity is investing to present the property to the standard which it currently enjoys.”
Responding to the publication of the letter, a National Trust spokesman said:
“The Fermanagh team engaged with local park runners in May, and also earlier in the year, to seek a solution to the increasing challenges of this event. In the months since that time the discussions moved on significantly , so it would not be representative of the process to look at one letter in isolation.
“After this period we consulted much further with Parkrun at a regional and national level. The National Trust agree and support the ethos that Parkrun is free to all and charges were never introduced. We also jointly agreed that the growing impact of the run could not be sustained. As a result of that lengthy process we made a joint decision to seek a new venue. We wish Parkrun every success in their new venue.”
A Change.org petition, started by Trust member and Parkrunner Heather Harper from Ballinamallard, has gathered almost 1,000 signatures from those who want the run to remain at Castlecoole.
Posted: 5:35 pm August 31, 2016