Best Practice in Nature Experience

Winner :
Mincio Park

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“I volti della natura in città” (Natural faces in the city) is the title of excursions program that Parco del Mincio is running around Mantova city and in the nearby natural reserve and Eden destination “Valli del Mincio” for an amount of more than forty naturalistic events into nature from April to October 2016.
It consists in hikes with professional guides – by bike, walking or sailing on little boats -, combined with theatrical animations, tastings and events, in order to discover the natural side of Mantova, Italian Capital of Culture 2016, the city symbol of our EDEN Destination.
More than two thousand people have gone to the discovery of herons, marsh grasses, local traditions, ancient trees, sunrises and sunsets from Mincio river. With naturalist guides, the participants discovered the EDEN on foot, by bike, by boat (even at night). All people have found how many good emotions can transmit a place EDEN.
Some examples.
During the “European Week of Parks” we have ran a “Biobliz”: explorers of biodiversity for a Day, with naturalistic experts that have assisted families in recognition of species of birds and trees. The photos taken by the participants were published on international platform Inaturalist.org , and so all have helped to increase the “database” of the world’s biodiversity.
And, again, we have studied and admired nature painted by the painters of the Renaissance in the halls of the palaces of the Gonzaga and, in the same day, we have explored the true nature of the destination EDEN.
More of history and nature suggestions: an evening trip to the discovery of colonies of bats living in the tunnels of a Napoleonic fortification with special opening dedicated EDEN event.

And more than 100 photos printed in large format and representing the EDEN nature, constitute an exhibition in the heart of Mantua, exibited at Giulio Romano’s Logge from July to late September.

Winner :
Kaposvar

The Zselic area situated south of Kaposvár (Hungary) is a generous gift of nature. The gently flowing springs and brooks in the woods, the lakes and ponds hidden in valleys and small villages have an innocent beauty in the eyes of visitors. The most untouched part of the Zselic -almost 9.000 hectares- has been a nature conservation area since 1976, being home to various species of protected plants and animals. The Zselic is one of the least light polluted areas in Europe and in 2009 was awarded the title International Starry Sky Park. The park is situated in a sparsely populated neighbourhood and the local buildings were designed to have low light pollution impact. All who love to gaze at the clear, unobstructed night sky will certainly enjoy the unrivalled experience of seeing the thousands of twinkling stars in the Milky Way from these tranquil hills.

To enable the public to enjoy this magic of nature, a large-scale development of tourist facilities including several structures, the Star Park of Zselic had been completed by the summer of 2015. Long-cherished dream of astronomists was matched in this project with the ambition of the management of the forests in Zselic to create new tourist-targeted facilities. A main building of 840 square metres was constructed to house the observatory, a look-out tower, a constellation park and several information points in the forest. The complex offers unforgettable experiences to all visitors who are interested in developing scientific understanding of nature and the universe surrounding it. Under favourable weather conditions, visitors can enlist the help of an on-site expert to observe and monitor the moon, the various planets of the solar system and the solar activity. The artefacts and equipment in the observatory offer an insight into the scientific and cultural background of the starry sky, regardless of the weather. The permanent exhibition of the complex showcases a unique collection of meteorites. At the Zselic Starry Sky Park stargazing night walks, evening programmes and special observation events are frequently organised and these are immensely popular with the public. Visitors may learn about the natural treasures of the Zselic region, the forest and water habitats and the wonders of the sky, such as the Milky Way and the view of zodiac lights (which are not at all or only barely visible from light pollution areas) during the day and at night, within the framework of individual, family or school programmes.
There is nothing quite as magical and breathtaking as watching the stars illuminate the beautiful clear skies at night. This experience is also available for those living with disabilities – sign language interpretation can be provided for the deaf and the equipment used for presentation is adapted for the visually impaired too.

Winner :
Faial Nature Park

Comprising nature conservation and tourism isn’t always an easy problem to solve. Especially if the most stunning experiences are in very special protected areas where human presence must be controlled in order not to damage the natural values that are present.
The Faial Caldera Natural Reserve is an internationally recognized protected area, where unique and threatened habitats and species find shelter from human disturbance. IUCN class I Natural Reserve, Ramsar area, Natura 2000 are some of the international recognitions. 7 out of 9 priority habitats in the Azores are located there as well as 2/3 of the endemic species of vascular plants. This high natural value is even more valued by one of the most striking and beautiful landscapes in the Azores: an immense crater of a volcano, 2Km of diameter and a medium depth of 400 meters which makes it one of the top places to visit in Faial island. Until recently, walking trails and visits to the reserve were not orderly organized and a big effort was done by the Faial Nature Park to organize and protect the area.
One of the most interesting experiences in Faial is the descent to the Caldera. This is not a common walking trail. As you go down the 400-meter-high, almost vertical wall you have the chance of observing some of the rarest plants and animals on earth and the incredible geologic features of the inside of a giant volcano crater. The ever changing mossy habitats of the Laurel forest are almost virgin and untouched. The descent to Caldera lasts about 3h30m and has a high degree of difficulty.
Given the need to preserve natural values present in Faial Caldera, with emphasis on the geological, biological and landscape uniqueness of this site a Decree regulating the access to the interior of the Natural Reserve was created (the Caldera Access Regulation – Decree No. 42/2011 of 8 June 2011). Under this Regulation, the maximum capacity of this route is 12 visitors, always accompanied by a certified guide and can be made up to three descents per day. A code of conduct was created and guide certification course with 120 hours was conducted by the Nature Park technical staff. Certification was opened last time in winter 2016 and a record number of 9 local service providers are now allowed to include the trail in their portfolio of activities. Meanwhile, surveillance by Nature Rangers and monitoring by the Faial Botanic Garden was conducted and reinforced on site in order to make sure that the presence of visitors does not have a negative impact on the environment. So far this year 217 visitors made the trail of the descent in 46 groups operated by 7 local companies, which is a record number, tree times higher than previous years. While monitoring shows no significant signs of impacts, several actions of invader plants control were developed and grazing was controlled in the area showing that nature conservation and tourism are possible to manage sustainably and with the benefit of both local business and the environment.

Runner Up :
Wild Taiga

Wild Taiga area has spectacular wilderness and nature based experiences to offer. The area has plenty of forest, lake and river areas with precious wildlife in the beautiful sparsely populated region in Eastern Finland. In 2008 Wild Taiga won the EDEN award as an intriguing nature destination.

Wild Taiga is attractive destination for different special tourist groups that want to find genuine experiences. It covers two municipalities in Kainuu, Kuhmo and Suomussalmi. In the Kuhmo area alone, there’s over 100 rapids and many interesting places for special groups like fishermen, for example.

Now, Wild Taiga is taking new and bold measures to further support the sustainability in the area. Selected rivers are restored to better enable the reproduction of native wild fish population. Especially these measures will support the native brown trout to survive and thrive in the waters of Wild Taiga area.

To reproduce brown trout needs specific conditions. The river bottom needs to be crude and include different areas. Trout needs small gravel on the bottom of the river to lay the eggs. When the eggs hatch, the small trout fry needs bigger rocks to take cover and shelter near the river banks. The adult fish needs even bigger boulders to hide behind in the strong current. That’s why the varied and correct type condition of river bottom is necessary for the spawning to succeed.

Besides the important nature aspect, these new innovative ways of responsibility and sustainability make the destination even more attractive also to new customer groups. Like, for example women who are enthusiastic about fly fishing and who really care about the nature values and wild healthy fish population.

The measures Wild Taiga is taking, are supporting trout and other native fish to live and reproduce. This enables to sustain possibilities to have even larger, new customer groups internationally to Wild Taiga area. And therefore add the appeal of this tourism destination.

For further information, please contact:

– Tuomo Tahvanainen, director, Kainuun Etu Oy, tuomo.tahvanainen@kainuunetu.fi

– Jaana Keränen, Sales Manager, jaana@wildtaiga.com

Runner Up :
Waimes

In the East(Belgium), Eden – Waimes
Waimes provides a unique tourist experience combining nature and gastronomy. Here, visitors can recharge their batteries, experience a change of scenery
and enjoy active leisure activities outdoors, as well as sample the local gastronomy – a multi-sectoral collaboration remarkably pleasurable for the taste buds!
Here, the change of scenery is guaranteed: at the summit of Belgium, at the borders of the Roman and Germanic areas, you will find an unusual destination, sparkled with a lot of (good) surprises.
Above all, you will find a wild and extensive nature reserve, wild gorgeous landscapes and wonderful historic sites. Here, history is rich, sometimes painful or not yet uncovered.
You will encounter stories from the past around each corner: medieval castle, old border markers, Prussian train
station, …
It is a place of character, where you also find plenty of local and authentic products, a lot of skilled craftsmanship,
award-winning restaurants as well as a large selection of quality accommodation.
Activities are plentiful and there is something for each season: cross-country skiing in Botrange and downhill skiing in Ovifat are the popular choices in winter.
When warmer seasons return, a wide array of walks and hikes is available, as well as numerous biking paths exploring the forests and nearby villages. During the summer, you can enjoy a dip in the lake of Robertville.
Aside from those leisure-time activities, the « High Fens » – region is renowned for its gourmet food.
Waimes, a gourmet paradise.
For a town of only 7,500 inhabitants, Waimes has an exceptionally high number of hotels (10) and restaurants (28). In addition, 10 of its restaurants are listed in the Michelin Guide, and one has a Michelin Star and is a member of the « Generation W ». A further five restaurants are listed in the Gault & Millau Guide. Waimes can boast of being the most highly-rated town with a population of under 10,000 in Wallonia.
The Waimes Town Council set up « Waimes Tourisme Gourmand », an association of bars, restaurants and cafés, which promotes its member businesses via a gourmet map, gastronomic events and a strong presence on the internet and social media.
Enjoy a unique experience combining nature and gastronomy in Waimes with the EDEN GOURMET TOUR !

Runner Up :
Sistema Fluviale Nera Velino

E-ONE Days – European Outdoor Nature Expercience

The project “European – Outdoor Network Experience” (Acronym E-ONE) was a project that answered to the call for proposal Collaborative Partnership of Programme ERASMUS + Sport. It involved 9 partners form 8 different European Countries: Municipality of Terni (Italy – Coordinator of the project), Province of Malaga (Spain), Universidad Catolica San Antonio de Murcia (Spain), Foundation for the Promotion of Social Inclusion in Malta (Malta), Municipality of Koge (Denmark), Associação da Madeira de Desporto para Todos (Portugal), Municipality of Pitea (Sweden), Hranická rozvojová agentura (Czech Republic), Association of Municipal Clerks in Bulgaria (Bulgaria).
The project’s core was the will to build a European network of stakeholders operating, with various roles and functions, in the field of sport and “non-organised” activities, as described in the EU Physical Activity Guidelines, with particular reference to “Outdoor” sports and “Open-air” activities.
Primary aim of the network was to prove and promote the fundamental and strategic role that such types of sports and activities play inside a multi-sectorial and integrated approach oriented towards the adoption of the EU Physical Activity Guidelines. Health, physical activity, wellness and quality of life integrated with the practice of “Outdoor” sports will improve and increase the social, economic and cultural growth of European citizens.
The E-ONE project was divided into the following main actions:
1. Meetings between partners:
• Kick-Off meeting in Malaga (Spain), 11th – 13th June 2015: The first meeting of all partners to share the objectives and work-programme of the project.
• Mid-term conference in Terni (Italy), 10th – 12th September 2015: This meeting was important to check the status of the project and to testify the management of tasks by all partners. It was organized during the main event E-ONE Days.
• Final conference in Riva del Garda (Italy), 25th – 27th May 2016: the final meeting to end all actions foreseen in the project and to discuss about the follow-up of the project.
2. Creation and activation of a Network of stakeholders for information, promotion, enhancement of the EU Guidelines on Physical Activity through the practice of Sport “Outdoor” and “non-Organised” activities. Partners had the primary task to promote the Network, its objectives and its activities, collecting expressions of interest from target groups (direct and indirect) and entering into specific agreements for membership of the Network for the expansion and enhancement of it. The main tool for the promotion was the web site of the project www.eoneproject.eu.
3. Survey Activity: How much and how European citizens practice outdoor activities? This research activities was essential to study the approach of people to outdoor sport and activities, to understand what people like to do and how they prefer to practice sport. This action was coordinated by UCAM University that spread questionnaires in all partners countries of the project with the help of members of the network. Results of this survey activity were discussed during the final conference.
4. Organization and implementation of the main event of the project: E-ONE Days (Terni and Marmore Falls, 10th – 13th September 2015). Four days of demonstrational events to promote the importance of outdoor sports and activities in wonderful locations as Marmore Falls. All partners travelled in Italy with own stakeholders and young people interested to try the importance of sport for psychophysical wellbeing.
5. E-ONE Challenge: competition of ideas for young people (18-30) for the design of spaces, areas and services in urban and extra-urban zones dedicated to “Non-Organised” and “Outdoor” physical activities in an “Sports for all” perspective. Young people all over Europe took place at the contest with the aim to reassess urban and extra-urban areas dedicated to practice of outdoor sports and activities. The winner group came from Malaga (Spain) and all members of the group won an “outdoor experience” on Garda Lake (included flight tickets, overnights, meals). This prize was thought to show to young people as a wonderful landscape as Garda Lake can be used for outdoor sport and activities in a sustainable way.

Runner Up :
Nature Park Ötscher-Tormäuer

Nature Experience in Lower Austria – Nature Park Ötscher-Tormäuer

The Nature Park Ötscher-Tormäuer in the heart of Austria is with 170 square kilometre the biggest one of Lower Austria. With its unrivalled landscape, including cliffy mountains and gentle meadows, the protected area excites mountaineers and nature lovers alike. In the middle of the park dominates the 1893 meters high peak of the Ötscher Mountain the landscape and deliver an impressive scenery from every direction.
The main attraction of the region is the Grand Canyon of Austria – the „Ötschergräben“. The canyon cuts deep into the valley and a trail runs along a crystal mountain river, through several natural rock gates and romantic forests to the secluded alpine hut “Schutzhaus Vorderötscher”. A sleepover in this calm environment is the perfect opportunity to escape from everyday life and feel the magic of nature.
All over the Nature Park bizarre rock formations, roaring waterfalls, hidden caves and rare Alpine plants enable the guests intensive experiences in and with nature.
In the whole region botanical specialities are waiting in the spaciously forests and the steep gorge. For Example, Twenty-five different orchids in danger of extinction have their habitat in the park.
Guided tours offer even deeper adventures in the intact, native environment. The local rangers lead you to the most awesome viewpoints, share stories about the region with you and show you fascinating secret places in the pure nature. It is the best possibility to get a wide overview about the life, fauna and flora in the Nature Park Ötscher-Tormäuer.
As a speciality, you can also discover the Nature Park by the railway. The historical gauge railway Mariazellerbahn takes you through a large part of the Park until Mariazell. The “Stairway to Heaven” is definitely one of the most comfortable transport ways trough the Nature Park Ötscher-Tormäuer.

Runner Up:
Limburg

Landscape experts

The province of South Limburg currently has sixty Landscape Experts. These entrepreneurs have all completed the course Gastheer van het Nationaal Landschap Zuid Limburg (‘Expert on the national landscape in South Limburg’). A new course will be offered this autumn.
Over the course of four sessions, participating restaurateurs learn about the origins of the South Limburg landscape and about the nature, cultural history, flora and fauna, and opportunities for collaboration, storytelling, and recreation the region has to offer.
The various excursions help participants experience what they learned in practice. This course aims to help entrepreneurs provide their guests with more information about the region’s unique landscape and natural surroundings. It also helps them showcase their businesses and present themselves as passionate landscape experts. In addition, the course will help to establish a network of landscape experts who can collaborate with nature organizations or the national park to arrange special offers and events, such as forest brunches, cultural activities, and cookbooks.
In short, this is a win-win situation for nature, recreation, and the economy that helps entrepreneurs generate support for their environment and for nature policies and nature management.

Below you will find several quotes from entrepreneurs who have taken this course in the past:
• ‘I look at my environment in a whole new light since taking the course. I’ve gained a much better understanding and awareness of its value and uniqueness. I also radiate pride and pleasure, which my guests pick up on. As a result, more than 90% of them come back. This percentage has increased significantly thanks to my new take on the South Limburg landscape!’
• ‘This course gives you a wonderful glimpse into the nature around us. It teaches you a lot about the origins of our landscape and makes you more respectful of what we’ve been given.’
• ‘A fun, relaxing, and informative course taught by true professionals.’
• ‘A course like this should become a standard part of primary school curricula; it gives you wonderful new insights into the nature around us.’
• ‘The course has changed the way I experience nature. I see much more than I used to and experience things more fully and more intensely.’