OUR weekly columnist Ruth Wishart discusses the Park Mobility social enterprise scheme which is set to come to Helensburgh later this year.


LAST weekend I was in conversation with Melanie Reid at the Aye Write! book festival in Glasgow.

A talented columnist, she is now tetraplegic, having had a riding accident almost exactly nine years ago.

Among the things we discussed was the way in which the able-bodied world failed to recognise the basic access problems of those in wheelchairs, or who have difficulty walking.

She didn’t realise the scale of the problem herself, she admitted, until her own world changed irrevocably, and she joined the ranks of the millions of people effectively barred from many public places and spaces.

By co-incidence, a couple of days later I ran into Hugh Young, the genial mine host of the Harvest Moon Deli in Clynder.

Last year Hugh, and his brother, who has a background in social care, were struck by how difficult it was for people in the area of Glasgow where he previously traded to enjoy Kelvingrove Park.

So for four months last summer they ran a park mobility scheme giving locals the chance to get around the park on electric mobility scooters.

They hope to do so again this year. But, more pertinently for us, they would like to replicate the scheme in Helensburgh, giving people the chance to get around both the revamped park and the seafront.

READ MORE: Park Mobility sets vision for Helensburgh base

The council, unsurprisingly, has no money to help them fund the scheme, but has also flagged up worries about children being knocked down and pathways being inadequate.

To which Hugh’s response is twofold: first, people with privately owned scooters already use them on the streets of Helensburgh; and second, there is a discrete fund to help improve public pathways.

But there is a part two to this notion, already piloted last year in Glasgow. The Kelvingrove scheme also involved recruiting volunteers from young people known to youth services professionals in the area, perhaps because of school exclusions or other adverse domestic experiences.

These young folks helped with servicing the scooters, charging them, and often accompanying the users round the park.

So there is the capacity for a bit of a win-win here if they can find a way to set up the same two part operation here, complete with charging points – which, says Hugh, would also be available for other users of electric vehicles.

I very much hope they find a way to make it work. It’s a classic example of a citizens’ initiative to help fellow citizens at a cash-strapped time when there’s little chance of it happening via the local authority.

If you fancy helping it along yourself, there’s an online fund-raising page trying to raise the £20,000 needed to make it happen and keep it going over this summer. Check it out at justgiving.com/crowdfunding/hugh-young.