Scores of people with a passion about Pagham Harbour took the chance to have their say.
At least 60 users of the local nature reserve met its new managers at a special event last Saturday. Their over-riding message to the RSPB was to leave the beauty spot alone.
Bognor Regis resident Jim Hiley, 69, summed up the mood as he went for a walk with his nine-year-old springer spaniel, Blue.
He said: “This is a valuable area to have on our doorstep. It’s fine the way it is.
“We come here three or four times a week and it’s great at different times of the day. Why shouldn’t the RSPB take it over? Someone’s got to run the harbour. I can’t see anyone else getting the funds to do it.”
The charity took on daily running of the site of 1,500 acres from West Sussex County Council in February to secure a sustainable future for it.
The county council is still closely involved through financial support for the next ten years at least.
RSPB project manager Adrian Thomas was among the charity’s representatives in a marquee at the entrance to Slipe Field off Church Lane.
“People have been wanting to find out what our plans are,” he said.
“They are to pretty much carry on as they are now.
“They have also been keen to know whether the long-standing access arrangements will stay and we have been able to re-assure them about that as well.
“It already looks and feels like an RSPB reserve. It has been managed by the council pretty much as we manage our reserves.”
The harbour attracts up to 250,000 visits a year by those keen to enjoy it unspoilt surroundings and their array of birds and flora and fauna.
Some visitors come from as far afield as Stoke-on-Trent on coach outings. Site manager Rob Carver said: “We often have people coming down from London and Home Counties as well as the Midlands.
“Plus we have our regular visitors from Bognor, Chichester and Selsey. Pagham is a very well known site nationally as well as locally.”
The area’s popularity stems from its status as one of the few natural coastal areas between Southampton and Dover.
It is among the largest of the RSPB’s 22 reserves in the south east.
The charity has started to compile a new five-year management plan for the harbour to replace the plan which is about to expire.
This will be available for consultation later this year. A community forum is also being set up by the RSPB to keep those with an interest with the reserve in touch with any plans.
In the longer-term, these will include a new visitor centre in Sidlesham.
“We know the present centre is not fully fit for its purpose,” said Mr Thomas. “It does need some uplifting and updating.
“We need to find funding to do that but only after a lot of public consultation.”
The RSPB will be holding another consultation event at the visitor centre from 9.30am to 6pm tomorrow.