There is strong public support for developing a multi-user route along a six-mile stretch of former railway in Wensleydale, park officials say.
Nearly four out of five members of the public have backed a proposal for a new family-friendly, wheelchair-accessible route between Hawes and Garsdale Station.
According to the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority (YDNPA), a total of 2,261 individual responses were received, with a minority of respondents – 19 per cent – against the proposal on the grounds that they would prefer the former trackbed to be protected from any development.
The online survey was carried out by the park authority after its members approved the principle of creating a Hawes-Garsdale multi-user route at its March quarterly meeting and asked for views from the public.
Currently there is no public access along the former branch line between Hawes and Garsdale.
The railway closed more than 60 years ago.
Neil Heseltine, YDNPA chair, said: “This is one of the most engaged surveys the authority has undertaken in recent years, and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to take part.
“Support from local people for a Hawes-Garsdale bridleway is particularly strong.
“Overall, 77 per cent of respondents supported the proposal, but among those who described themselves as living and/or working or owning a business in the National Park, support rose to 82 per cent.
“That is owing to a desire to create a safe place for children to cycle or go horse riding away from the main road, a need for a direct, car-and-motorcycle-free route between Hawes and Garsdale Station, and a need to support economic development, which the route would likely stimulate.
“The former railway is a monument to Victorian engineering, but at the moment it is a largely wasted – and deteriorating – asset.
“If members decide later this month to confirm their support for a Hawes-Garsdale multi-user route, then the authority would approach potential project partners to discuss a way ahead.”
The full results will be presented at the next authority meeting, on Tuesday, June 28, when members will decide whether to formally back the proposal.
Meeting papers will be published next week here.
A feasibility study into the creation of a Hawes-Garsdale multi-user route, commissioned by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and Richmondshire District Council, is here.