NATIONAL park chiefs are hoping the organisation's 50th anniversary next year will prove to be the catalyst which ensures its survival.

Research indicates that the majority of people who make regular trips to the Yorkshire Dales are white, able-bodied, middle-aged and middle-class.

And a report warns that if no attempt is made to promote the attractions to a more diverse audience, there is a real risk that future generations will grow up without an appreciation of the great outdoors.

The report, compiled by the park authority's acting head of internal affairs Andrew Osbourne, says: "One of the conclusions which can be drawn is that the national park is becoming less relevant to younger people.

"Looking to the future, this could have a range of impacts. If new audiences are not made aware of the national park, then there will be a public decline in the support for their conservation and enhancement.

"Further, the long-term future of tourism and associated businesses could well be weakened."

The report, to be presented to the national park authority when it meets next week, suggests that during next year's 50th anniversary it should take its message into the inner cities, to schools, to shows and festivals, while a number of new marketing initiatives are developed to improve the profile of the Dales.

However, members will be reminded of the vital role local communities play in making the Yorkshire landscape what it is today, and events planned in 2004 should also celebrate their contribution, says the report.

Tuesday's meeting, in Muker, Swaledale, will be urged to sanction a working group which would be responsible for spearheading new initiatives to come under the 50th anniversary umbrella.

Mr Osbourne recommends: "While pursuing this new area of work and 'reaching out', the authority will be mindful of its traditional audiences and a complementary and integrated programme of initiatives will be developed for residents and current visitors.

"What is being proposed is - for this authority - a bold step forward, mainstreaming the authority's social inclusion work alongside the tried and tested traditional approaches taken to date."