Organisers of the bid for the Black Country Urban Park said today that the project will still go ahead, after it missed out on £50m of Lotter funding in a public vote.
The Black Country Urban Park was one of four schemes short-listed in the The People's £50 Million Lottery winner-takes-all contest. The winner was Sustrans: Connect2, a UK-wide project to create new cycling and walking routes. It scooped 42% of the 286,285 votes.
Sarah Middleton, chief executive of the Black Country Consortium Ltd which led the bid, said: "Clearly we are disappointed to have lost out in the final, but we are going to go ahead with the project - it just won't happen as quickly.
"We are really proud of the way the region has rallied together. We have had some fantastic support and we will be looking to lean on that support in terms of how we take the programme forward.
"We are pleased that we have got some national recognition for our industrial heritage."
But she warned that time was of the essence for the project, which aims to safeguard vast underground man-made limestone caverns.
"The issue is they are in danger of collapsing," she said. "Clearly, once they have collapsed, that window of the world will be lost forever so we have to understand how we can raise the resources to save them."
Peter Mathews CMG, president of the Black Country Chamber of Commerce, said: "Obviously we are disappointed not to have won. The £50 million would have made an enormous contribution to the area, making it a better place to live and work.
"It was a great opportunity to celebrate our heritage. Our challenge now is to harness the community energy that the Urban Park project has generated. We want to carry that forward to make sure the regeneration of the Black Country can continue."
The Sustrans scheme is a nationwide scheme to build bridges and crossings over barriers such as busy roads, rivers and railway lines. Each crossing will link to a network of walking and cycling routes to help cyclists and pedestrians reach schools, shops, workplaces and green spaces.
Around six million people live within a mile of the proposed Connect2 project, and the plans include linking the Plants Brook Valley in north east Birmingham to the nearby communities, providing access for schools, hospitals, Sutton Coldfield town centre, Sutton Park and, at its southern end, the Birmingham and Fazeley Canal Towpath.