EUROPARC Conference chronicle

Last 18th of October, during a four-day event, EUROPARC Conference hosted over 300 participants from 36 European countries at Parc Jura Vaudois, Switzerland. The objective of the Conference is to provide an adecuate framework for protected areas professionals to exchange experiences on different topics regarding parks management in Europe. Under the theme “We Are Parks”, the Conference held different activities, workshops, meetings and events where expertise could be shared and personal relationships could be strengthen. At the same time, this event provides a unique opportunity for the participants to discuss ambitions and possible collaboration for the near future. Below you can find a chronicle of the main moments lived at Parc Jura Vaudois:

Day I:

The Conference venue in Le Sentier opened its doors to the delegates arriving from the different corners of Europe. In the afternoon, the General Assembly gathered EUROPARC members with the objective to review and agree on the activity of our organisation during the past year 2015. Following the assembly, a Section’s Agreement was signed by the different Section’s representatives and also on the stage. The objective of this agreement is to strengthen the existing collaboration between the different sections that conform EUROPARC.Afterwards, a magnificent Opening Session took place, where the attendees could not only learn more about Parc Jura Vaudois but to enjoy the “sound of the forest” that surrounds this area. Watch the short film of Day I of Day I.

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Sound degustation and presents offered to the delegates in the Opening Ceremony.

Day II:

After a night of rest and the morning coffee, the delegates were ready to face an intense day of activities. During the morning, the Plenary Session allowed the participants to learn more about the hot topics on protected areas and nature conservation from the hand of speakers as Inger Andersen (IUCN) and Carlos Romao (EEA). The bottom-up approach in the creation of Swiss Parks was also a main subject discussed, with speakers from the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment, the Canton de Vaud and the Parc Jura vaudois. Here you can download all keynote speakers’ presentations.

After lunch, delegates attended one of the nine Tutorials, where they had a closer look to specific topics such as wetland management, fund raising strategies, Peri-urban parks, marine protected areas or biosphere reserves. Later in the afternoon, and after joining an amazing parade across the streets of Le Sentier, we had the honour to join the local inhabitants of the Valle de Joux at the Party of the Inhabitants. This event made us feel like at home and allowed us to enjoy some of gastronomy of the Valley, learn about their culture and have a chat with the international community that inhabits this corner of Switzerland. Watch the short film of Day II.

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Inger Andersen, Director General of IUCN, speaking at the Plenary Session.

Day III

Like every morning, delegates were welcomed to the Conference venue for a day of putting knowledge into practice. During the whole morning, fifteen different Workshops allowed the participants to discuss in deep different topics regarding protected areas, as sustainable tourism, agriculture in protected areas, health, Natura 2000 management, communication, volunteering programmes, funding mechanisms, youth involvement, climate change and much more.

After the workshops, the conclusions and main topics of debate were presented to the rest of the delegates in the Conference venue. However, the attention was shared with one of the events that we most like of EUROPARC Conference, the MarketPlace. This little market gathered about 50 stands from all over Europe, where information about different protected areas and projects were available, together with some of the best delicacies and drinks from our members’ regions.

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Delegates at the Market Place.

Day IV

With a mix of tiredness and satisfaction, we received the last day of the Conference with the intention of having a great time. Strong coffee and packed lunch received the participants who, dressed in outdoor costumes and hiking shoes, were ready to discover the surroundings of the Parc Jura Vaudois in one of the nine fieldtrips organised by the hosts. Some delegates had the chance to learn more about the exclusive and world-famous watch industry that exists in this region of Switzerland, whilst others explored the resonant red spruces forest, which have been used for centuries to build musical instruments.

In the afternoon, and after having recovered for the morning walks and adventures, a very special meeting took place in the Hotel Le Ville. In the President´s Meeting, presidents of several protected areas have a chance to meet and discuss about the management and direction necessities of their parks. Right after the meeting was concluded, the presidents joined the rest of the participants at the Conference venue to attend the Final Session and Gala Dinner, the end of the Conference.

During the Final Session, different surprises took place. As a starter, and while the participants were enjoying the first dishes of the dinner, the Alfred Toepfer Scholarships and Alfred Toepfer Medal were awarded. Following, and after and amazing presentation full of humour, the next EUROPARC Conference host and place were announced and the EUROPARC Conference flag was handed in. However, no EUROPARC Conference could conclude without shaking our bones! So, the dinner gave place to the party, and a night of music and dances took place, in which a shy attendance of EUROPARC team was shadowed by the choreographies of the whole team of the Swiss organisers.

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And, for those of you that want to have a closer look at the events and moments lived, you can check the final film of the Conference or take a look at the photo album.

Are we missing something? Oh, yes! Just a quick question to all of you that couldn´t attend this year´s Conference. Did you ever heard about the Magic Mountains in Portugal? If your answer is “no”, it is time to look it up in the map, check this presentation video and note these dates down in your agenda: September 6th to 10th 2017… Now the mystery has been revealed, as these are the dates and place were next EUROPARC Conference will take place… Get ready for EUROPARC Conference 2017!