A Call to all European Parks and Trails | World Trails Conference

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Our executive director Carol Ritchie will speak at the #WorldTrailsConference in Ottawa!
Taking place from September 30 to October 3, 2024, the Conference will bring together trail leaders, experts and fellow enthusiasts.

With a long history of ancient pilgrimages, herding routes, long-distance hikes and transnational Grande routes criss-crossing the continent, the European experience of managing trails is somewhat unique. As an important means of managing multi-use visitors and of seeking to mitigate wildlife disturbance whilst enabling people to get into nature, trails are the most obvious and fundamental part of any park’s infrastructure.

Trails too are a way of attracting and serving tourists visiting our parks and are often an economic driver of an area. Great trails often come through our parks and they connect to areas outwith our Protected Areas.

Understanding their importance in the landscape is vital in linking people to place but too as a valuable line of communication to interpret the culture, wildlife and indeed climate change impacts around us.

EUROPARC is recommending all European parks and trail managers to consider attending the World Trails Congress in Ottawa, Canada from September 30 to October 3 2024, to bring this wealth of European experience to the world stage but also to find new approaches and management practices from across the world.

Hosted by the Trans Canada Trail, the 2024 World Trails Conference will focus on connection – to people, places and the planet. Explore the profound bonds that link humanity to the natural world and develop a new understanding of how our trails impact the environment, communities and each other.

EUROPARC will be represented at the congress, but are seeking to encourage a large European delegation to join, to discuss the benefits and challenges trails bring to our Protected Areas.

Early bird fees close soon… so make sure to register online at: worldtrailsconference.org

Do you have interesting case studies or news to share with us on this topic? Then please do reach out to us! We want to amplify the work happening in Europe!

Submit your case study

State of play of Protected Areas in Spain

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The commitment to Protected Areas in Spain is strong, with more than 36% of the land surface area protected and, shortly, 21% of the marine surface area.

Yearbook 2023 on the state of Protected Areas in Spain

The Yearbook of Protected Areas in Spain 2023, – published by EUROPARC Spain on the 18th of March 2024 and available in Spanish language – showcases the state of the art of Protected Areas in this country and includes an analysis of several aspects of concern.

Spain has 36.7% of the protected land area and 12.3% of the marine area, a figure that will soon rise to 21%. It stands out as the country with higher contribution of Protected Areas to the European Natura 2000 network, and the one with the highest number of biosphere reserves in the world, with 53 designated territories. These figures provide a solid basis for tackling many of the commitments related to the European Union’s Biodiversity Strategy.

Partnerships for conservation and socio-economic revitalisation

Protected Areas are essential tools within environmental, social and economic policies. Furthermore, in an increasingly urbanised society, they provide access to nature and to its enjoyment – Spanish National Parks alone receive almost 14 million visitors.

Protected Areas are also areas of opportunity for green activity and employment, especially in rural areas.

says Juana Barber, President of EUROPARC Spain.

Additionally, initiatives such as the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas (ECST) – promoted by the EUROPARC Federation – are an example scheme that allows quality recognition for products and services from Protected Areas. The ECST has involved 30 protected natural areas in Spain, 526 tourism companies and 10 travel agencies that voluntarily participate in the initiative.

Active management, experiences and field practices

Protected Areas play an essential role not solely in the conservation and restoration of ecosystems and their biodiversity.  There is growing evidence and experiences of the role that Protected Areas play in tackling the challenges of climate change, articulating the necessary cooperation between sectoral policies and stressing the socio-economic benefits of nature conservation.

Among other experiences, the Yearbook of Protected Areas in Spain 2023 portrays examples on  the contribution of Protected Areas to the different future challenges we, as a society, face. Such is the case of an European project for adaptation to climate change in a Natural Park in Galicia and an initiative for climate change mitigation in the Natural Parks of the Chartered Community of Valencia. Likewise, we can find examples like the commitment to conservation and revitalisation of rural areas in a recently created Natural Park in La Rioja and the experience of a decade of collaborative work to promote sustainable tourism in La Gomera island, driven by Garajonay National Park.

The report is available online at EUROPARC Spain website in Spanish language – take a closer look to this significant report by clicking the button below.

To the Yearbook 2023 page

Part one of the 4 Pillars 4 Youth+ Erasmus+ Project

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Alberto Madrassi, Youth representative for the Youth Advisory Board of the Julian Prealps Nature Park and EUROPARC Youth Council member shares his experience in Müritz National Park for the Project 4 Pillars 4 Youth+.

Four Days in Müritz National Park

Between the 11th and the 16th of March 2024, the educational centre Steinmühle of Müritz National Park (DE) hosted a four-day seminar that gathered 23 people from seven European Countries. The seminar was the first phase of a project called “4 Pillars 4 Youth+”, aimed at creating a digital interactive toolkit that will help the Youth+ mentors. The toolkit will cover each pillar of the Youth+ Programme (Nature Conservation, Leadership, Advocacy and Communication) with clear steps on how to set up activities and examples of activities that develop skills and competencies.

Arriving at a place in darkness always increases the curiosity of discovering what it looks like in daylight. Müritz National Park didn’t disappoint. The quiet lake, the majestic beech forest, and the noise of the many birds living in the area created a soothing atmosphere. I am convinced that this helped all the participants be in the perfect mindset to approach four days of workshops.

In general, this kind of schedule is associated with things one doesn’t particularly look forward to: a lot of presentations, sitting and stale air. This time, it wasn’t the case. The secret? Peer-to-peer learning, co-creation and cake breaks! Also, the weather played an important role because we were able to have a good balance of inside and outside sessions.

Then, all the participants were involved in the running of the seminar. Some ran a session due to their specific experience or knowledge, while others organised energisers. Each of the four days, the focus was on one of the pillars of the Youth+ programme. Not all Youth+ programmes are active in all four pillars; therefore, it was an opportunity to grow together and learn from each other. It was also beneficial for the project because it allowed us to harvest many good practices that will come in handy for creating the toolkit.

I liked witnessing that, during the breaks, people kept talking about what they do in their respective Protected Areas or organisations. There was a true desire to learn new things and hear about different projects. The Youth+ community is growing fast, and networking is a driving force.

The environment at the seminar was highly supportive, and I felt self-confident to the extent of being positively surprised by it. Until not so long ago, co-leading a workshop or speaking in front of an audience would have been unthinkable for me. The Youth+ programme is also this; it allows all of us to improve and shine.

This positive atmosphere helped to satisfactorily conclude the seminar. The work will continue through online meetings, and it will lead to the creation of the above-mentioned online toolkit later this year. Keep an eye out for future updates!

View the photo album here!

Alberto Madrassi running a role-playing session in Müritz National Park, photo credit: Anna Di Cecco

Training in co-management of Protected Areas in Portugal: planning for HPHPe

Group photo of Portuguese PA representatives in February

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30 Park Managers engaged in a training session to include Healthy Parks Healthy People in their Action Plans.

HPHPe training event in Portugal

On the 21st of March, 30 Portuguese Park Managers engaged in a training course for technicians in Co-management of Protected Areas in Portugal – Introducing the HPHP Europe in the PA Action Plan.

The attending park technicians were from both Municipalities and the ICNF (Portuguese Agency for Nature Conservation and Forests) and are actively involved in promoting and communicating the value of Protected Areas.

Led by Carles Castell, a member of the EUROPARC HPHPe Commission, this introduction provided valuable insights and showcased successful examples from across Europe. The aim was to inspire and empower participants to play an active role in developing initiatives aligned with the HPHPe methods and principles.

The session is included in a long-term capacity-building programme, designed to build the skills of the Protected Areas technicians.

This marks a significant milestone as Portugal embraces the Healthy Parks Healthy People Europe initiative for the first time.

By fostering a deeper connection between people and parks, with an emphasis on restoration and health, we strive to create happier and healthier communities.

This event serves as the initial step towards implementing initiatives that promote well-being within Portuguese parks, setting the stage for a brighter, healthier future.

Healthy Parks Healthy People Europe Programme is a long-standing initiative of EUROPARC Federation.

The HPHPe toolkit “Health and Well-Being Benefits from Parks and Protected Areas” provides practical advice to set up policy and activities in your Park; brings you the latest evidence, reports and other useful resources; and shares inspiring examples from across the EUROPARC network. A must-read for all Protected area staff (including planners, site managers, rangers, and wardens) but also to governmental bodies aiming to develop national and regional policy to leverage health benefits from natural areas.

If you wish to get inspiration to how get active you can take a look at our:

If you are already active and wish to share your experience with the network you are welcome to submit a case study