Actions Plans of OurWay, an Interreg Europe project

(PreservatiOn and promotion of cultural and natural heritage through GreenWAYs.)

The aim of Interreg Europe program  is to help regional and local governments across Europe to develop and deliver a better policy,  trough the best practices sharing and policy learning.

First Phase of the Interreg project covers 5 semesters and is dedicated to inter-regional learning based on the exchange of experiences and study visits that serve as inspiration to improve the policies of the territories represented in the project, through the Action Plans (APs). These APs are the essential result of the project.

The AP is a document providing details on how the lessons learnt and exchange of experience from the interregional cooperation will be exploited in order to improve the regional policy instruments. The Action Plan specifies the nature of the actions to be implemented, their time frame, stakeholders involved, the cost, and funding sources.

In the case of OurWay, the good practices and, subsequently, the APs, have been aimed at learning about good practices that allow improvements in Preservation and promotion of cultural and natural heritage through GreenWAYs regarding :

  • Governance,
  • Promotion
  • Funding

The study visits have allowed to know in the field the great advantages of greenways and to motivate the partners to implement new policies for the promotion of cultural and natural heritage through greenways.

The Action Plans prepared by the six  territories involved in the project include actions in all the above-mentioned areas.  The proposed Action Plans are linked to the partners’ competences, capacity for action,  and/or their capacity to influence stakeholders with whom they have been collaborating throughout the process, that will carried out some of the proposed actions, as well as their commitment and interest.

Thanks to the learning process a significant knowledge and increase of the interest in the use of the “greenways” have been achieved in all the territories represented, due to the great opportunities that these safe non motorized routes have to enhance the cultural and natural heritage.

As an advisory partner, that has been guiding partners during all the process in the phase 1, leading to the preparation of the APs, it is a great pleasure to see such positive results in the promotion of greenways across Europe. These schemes will benefit the local population and economy, and will help to attract new domestic and international visitors interested in green and sustainable tourism. The APs and the impact of the schemes will depend, of course,  on the characteristics and involvement of the partners, their scope for action, their interest and their ambition. A brief overview of these plans is given below and the actual documents can be found on the interreg website.

 

The Region of Murcia leads the OurWay project. The Action Plan of the Greenways in the Region of Murcia is aimed at promoting and improving the quality of the services offered in the surroundings of the greenways. It will include different types of actions (information in different languages, new web contents, direct marketing, brochures…). The lead partner has also been strongly working on a proposal for a pilot plan, which has been recently approved. It is a very innovative an challenging action, since it will be the first experience at Spanish level. We wish the best implementation to this ambitious pilot project.

Ireland’s partner, Northern and Western Regional Assembly, will undertake a number of actions that will result in strategic changes to its spatial planning policy and improved governance. In particular, the AP foresees to integrate greenways into regional planning documents and to set up a regional forum for the development of greenways planning and funding. Another action integrated in its AP aims to encourage the development and promotion of greenways by making a recommendation to local authorities to include a plan or strategy for the development and funding of greenways in the new County & City Development Plans.

The Polish region of Podkarpackie has proposed a particularly ambitious Action Plan, which includes the implementation of a region-wide, coordinated and stakeholder-involved cycling policy.

The first action proposed in the plan, and already implemented, is aimed at improving the structure and governance of RIS 3 through the creation of a sub-panel dedicated to greenways and cycle routes within the “Quality of Life” sub-panel. This entity will act as a coordinator for the creation of regional cycle routes and greenways at regional level as well as at interregional and cross-border cooperation.

The second action is oriented towards planning, namely the realisation of a regional cycling plan, which will be a new policy instrument to develop and coordinate the network of greenways and cycle routes in the region. The planning documents resulting from the AP will subsequently allow to apply for European funds in the period 2021-27 for the construction and implementation of greenways and cycling networks in Podkarpackie, according to the priorities set out in its plan.

The plan also includes a new project to extend the network of cycling routes in the Bieszczady Mountains  to connect it with the Green Velo cycling route in eastern Poland, which is almost 2000 km long that are currently unlinked. Bieszczady mountains have great natural and cultural heritage attractions, and the connection of both itineraries will no doubt be  an asset to this beautiful area.

In Hungary, the partner Hajdú-Bihar County Government, has proposed the realisation of a “Hike in Hadjú-Bihar” Programme, involving stakeholders (municipalities, suppliers, accommodations…). It will integrate the many singular natural, cultural and landscape values along the county section of the national long distance trail in Hungary “Alföld Blue Trail”. In addition to the routes it will include the formulation of the framework and the content of a reward system for walkers who finish the trail, as a way of promoting the trails and the local services (accommodation, restaurants, …) located in their surroundings.

They will also launch a Hortobágy Treasures project to develop the so-called greenway with the involvement of the municipalities. This experience will furthermore be used to “feed” the content of the future regional development programme 2021-2027 through the inclusion of a dedicated soft tourism priority measure, which will be the first ever strategic soft tourism development policy of the county.

The Bulgarian partners, Vratsa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, have worked very intensively with the stakeholder group, in particular with the active participation of the representatives of the Vrachanski Balka Nature Park during all the period.

In the course of the interregional learning process, they have identified an interest in promoting the Botev Route. It is a historical route that crosses the territory of the Vratsa District for 120 km (which includes 4 municipalities, the territory of the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park and Natura 2000 areas). It is suitable for walking, cycling and horse riding. Once a year a march is organised along the route in honor of the Bulgarian national hero Hristo Botev, but during the rest of the year, it is almost unvisited by tourists. The route is known as a historical site, not as a tourist attraction and an opportunity for sports. In this sense, the partners agreed on the need to develop promotional and informative materials for the route in order to advertise it as a year-round tourist destination.

To this end, the Bulgarian Action Plan envisages a revision of the Vrachanski Balka Nature Park Management Plan and its formal adoption. The objective of this activity is to prepare a work/project plan for the renovation and promotion of the Botev route, which runs through the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park as a “green road”. The Park will start the implementation of the activities assuring, at least in a first step, the following activities: cleaning of the route, placement of information boards and publication of a brochure.

In addition, the Vratsa Chamber of Commerce and Industry, with the support of the stakeholders, submitted to the Vratsa Regional Development Council to include an integrated project for the Botev route as part of the Integrated Territorial Development Strategies / ITSR / level 2 regions for the period 2021- 2027. The pandemic has delayed the decision on this matter but, in any case, it is worth noting the interest of the stakeholders of OurWay in making this request jointly. This action would be of great interest and we hope that the inclusion of the Botev route as part of the Vratsa district strategy 2021-27 will be approved.  The Vratsa Chamber of Commerce and Industry will closely monitor any further developments.

The  Action Plan of the French partner, L’Herault, will focus on the promotion of the green network and greenway under a project called “Discovering the Herault roaming”.

The partners from Poland and Bulgaria presented their plans to the Stakeholders last February. EGWA participated in these on-line events with a presentation on Greenways routes in Europe: their importance and role in preserving and promoting cultural and natural heritage. The objective was to raise awareness of the importance of greenways for the promotion of cultural and natural values of the territories, encouraging partners to implement their action plans and to integrate the great values they have in their territories when planning and promoting their itineraries, for the benefit of their territories and Europe as a whole.

 

The pandemic has forced a reduction in face-to-face study visits, yet partners have made an effort and managed to submit action plans.

Online visits, although very important, do not allow this direct knowledge, nor the pleasure of enjoying greenways by cycling or walking, which is an essential part of learning. Direct experience makes it easier for partners to realise the benefits of greenways and motivates their enthusiasm to undertake plans and policies to promote greenways in their territories, for the benefit of the quality of life of their citizens and the economy.

 

Mercedes Muñoz
European Greenways Association, Director
Advisory Partner – 27/05/2021 – Updated 15/06/2021

Credit photos: © Images from the Online Meeting – Vía Verde del Noroeste de Murcia – EGWA.  

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