Controversial car park closures that began across the New Forest this week have cost in excess of £10,000, according to one of the groups fighting the move.
New Forest Dog Owners Group says it makes nonsense of the claims by the Forestry Commission that it needs to impose the closures to save money.
New timber barriers with metal fittings and heavy-duty padlocks have been specially installed at the 31 car parks that are now out of bounds to Forest users until the end of March.
NFDOG commissioned a contractor to estimate the cost and was quoted a figure of £250 to £300 per barrier.
It means that the barriers alone appear to have cost in the region of £8,000 to £9,000, and the administration work in setting up the scheme will push the total to well over £10,000.
"The economic case looks extremely dubious to us," said NFDOG chairman Pauline Ludlow.
"We remain firmly of the view that closing car parks will result in heavier use of, and greater damage to, those that are still open. It will simply displace the cost. Add to that our estimate of an extra £10,000 for the barriers and the whole scheme looks like nonsense."
Before getting their estimate, NFDOG representatives quizzed Forestry Commission Recreation Manager Bruce Rothnie about the cost of introducing the closures. However, he refused to reveal the actual figure, even though it is public money.
"They cannot even agree on the exact reason for the closures," claimed Mrs. Ludlow.
"The Deputy Surveyor, Mike Seddon, is on record as saying the closures come about since they have to find ways of making an ever reducing budget go further. His colleague, Bruce Rothnie, was adamant when we questioned him, that it was not a cost saving exercise.
"This apparently muddled approach has been typical of the way the Forestry Commission has gone about this whole sorry saga.
"They chose to present the proposal as a fait accompli at what was supposed to be a consultative meeting, without any pretence of consultation. Then they put up notices saying the closures would start at the beginning of October after telling us they wouldnt start until the end of October. On top of all that, they left the misleading notices up for days after admitting they were a mistake, causing further confusion to who knows how many people.
"There is little wonder that all of us who want to enjoy using the Forest are deeply fed up with the Forestry Commission."
Mrs. Ludlow believes the large amount of money the Commission is willing to spend on the barriers this year is proof positive that it plans to make the closures an annual event.
"They claim to be keeping the closure programme under constant review, with a formal review next spring. However, it is clear to us from the big capital investment they have made that next years closures are already scheduled. We will fight it tooth and nail," Mrs Ludlow added.
NFDOG committee members will be patrolling car parks in affected areas keeping a log of problems caused by the closures between now and the end of March. Anyone who wishes to report a problem can write to NFDOG Membership Secretary Penny Gayler at Higham House, Tiptoe Road, Wootton, New Milton, BH25 5SJ.
NFDOG chairman Mrs Pauline Ludlow added: "Several days after the Forestry Commission stated the car parks would be closed, many of them are still open. Some of them, including Shepherds Gutter and Bramble Hill Walk, have not even had their barriers installed yet.
"While at first sight, this may seem like a good thing, it will merely add to the general confusion caused by the way the Forestry Commission has yet again mishandled this matter.
Most people will be cautious about using the car parks because of the fear that they will find themselves trapped behind a barrier when they return."