The Snowdonia National Park came into existence on the 18th October 1951 following the 1949 National Park and Access to the Countryside Act. The boundaries to the National Park were identified in 1950 following recommendations from the National Park Commission on which Sir Clough Williams Ellis served as a member. The criterion for inclusion in the National Park was outstanding scenic beauty which meant a number of urban developments and industrial areas such as slate production sites were excluded from the Park.
The Park covered a total of 837 square miles and was the third to be given National Park status but was the first designated National Park in Wales. 1951 also saw the designation of The Lake District, Peak District and Dartmoor as National Parks.
Key Dates and Events
Discussions on how the National Park should function reached a stalemate in 1952 with some suggesting an independent board should run it whilst others favored giving powers to the County Councils. A compromise was agreed upon and a Joint Advisory Committee was established. The National Park really began to function in 1953 with issues such as rural depopulation, decline in traditional industries and low standards of living being brought before the Joint Advisory Committee. Some important developments in the Park’s history occurred in the 1950’s including the designation of Cwm Idwal as a National Nature Reserve and the designing of the National Park’s logo, which is still used to this day. The first National Park Information Centre opened at Llanrwst followed by Dolgellau Information Centre in 1959, which received 3,000 visitors during the summer. The car park viewpoint at Nant Gwynant was also built to help with congestion problems.
The Warden Service was established in 1961 with Gwilym Owen and Warren Martin the first to be appointed to the organisation. It was decided that Snowdon was to be designated a National Nature Reserve following discussions between the National Park and the Nature Conservancy. The Information Centre at Bala opened its doors to visitors attracting over 1,500 visitors in its first season. The National Park assumed control of Llyn Tegid after Meirionydd County Council bought it in 1964. The National Park’s Environmental Studies Centre at Plas Tan y Bwlch was purchased for £30,000 and included adjoining meadows, gardens, woodlands and lakes. Further Information Centres were opened at Blaenau Ffestiniog and Llanberis with the latter recording over 18,000 visitors during its first season. The former railway line between Pont y Wern Ddu and Morfa Mawddach was purchased and with developments over the years, has become the Mawddach Trail now extending to Dolgellau.
Re-organisation within Local Government in the early 1970’s led to the Snowdonia National Park operating as a department of Gwynedd County Council. 1974 saw the National Park assuming responsibility for planning, with any applications outside the Park boundaries being handled by the National Park Committee. Land was purchased at a number of popular sites to provide services for visitors including Snowdon Ranger, Llynoedd Mymbyr, Betws y Coed, Beddgelert and Nant Peris. Following extensive work, Plas Tan y Bwlch opened as a study centre in 1975. A scheme was launched to deal with parking problems at popular visitor sites by taking walkers to the starting points of walks – this became known as the Snowdon Sherpa bus scheme.
The 1980’s started on a high with the 1981 Canoe World Championship held in Bala, bringing people from all over the world to Snowdonia. Promoting the Snowdonia National Park was also an important issue and the Youth and Schools Liaison Officer took the National Park message to the inner cities such as Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham. In 1983 the National Park bought the Snowdon summit building from the Snowdon Mountain Railway in order to help with the repair work before leasing it back to the railway company following its refurbishment. Acorns were taken from Plas Tan y Bwlch’s woodlands and donated to Kew Gardens to help with the repair work following the 1987 hurricane. In 1989, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the 1949 National Park and Access to the Countryside Act, a team from Snowdonia cycled to Chatsworth for the celebrations.
The 1995 Environment Act added new responsibilities to all National Parks in England and Wales by adding the protection and enhancement of the area’s wildlife and culture and a duty to foster the economic well being of communities in the Park, to their remit. The new National Park offices opened in Penrhyndeudraeth with the environmentally friendly building made from natural materials. 1996 saw Snowdonia becoming a free standing Local Authority and an Independent Local Planning Authority. The Upland Paths Partnership scheme came into existence to combat erosion on some of the most popular mountain routes with Snowdon, Cwm Idwal and Cader Idris benefiting from the work.
The Snowdonia National Park celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2001 with a conference held for all the Welsh National Parks. To coincide with the event, the Information Centre at Betws y Coed was refurbished and officially opened 50 years to the day that the Park was established on October 18th. 2001 proved a difficult year with the Foot and Mouth disease threatening both the agricultural and tourism industries. There was much celebration in June with the spread of the disease slowing down and the majority of footpaths were re-opened. June the 12th 2009 was a momentous day in the Park's history with the official opening of Hafod Eryri, the new visitor centre at the summit of Snowdon. The centre was opened by the Rt. Hon. Rhodri Morgan AM, who was then First Minister for Wales. Hafod Eryri was designed by the architect Ray Hole and built to withstand severe weather from strong winds to low temperatures.