Sixth meeting of the OurWay Steering Committee (27-28 April. Vratsa, (Bulgaria)
The aim of the 6th Steering Group meeting was to review the status of the Action Plans, to arrange the next steps, and to learn on site about examples of the Best Practices proposed by our hosts, which are linked to tourist attractions in the Vratsa district and make up a part of Bulgaria’s national tourist sites.
This meeting was the first face-to-face gathering of the Steering Group after COVID
Overview of the main results of the partners’ Action Plans
Region of Murcia (Lead Partner) and Consorcio de las Vías Verdes de la Región de Murcia, Spain
- An extensive promotion of the greenways of the region of Murcia, which includes a new slogan, “Life in every step“, network campaigns and plans to transform the website to a more tourist and multilingual webpage. In addition, and very relevant, the strengthening of collaboration with the administrations responsible for tourism and stakeholders.
- A very attractive pilot action, creation of a cycle-rail, the implementation of which is proving to be a considerable challenge. It will be the First Spanish rail-cycle trolley. It consists in using rails of a disused section of the railway track, which is located in 3 municipalities of the Region with “Cyclo-Rails” or “pedal cars”, as inspired by the project of Bieszczady Mountains in Podkarpackie.
- Concrete action changes in policy documents to improve governance, (RIS) and to lay the groundwork to obtain European funds for the implementation of the cycling and greenways network (including the creation of bike and foot trails topics in the European Funds Document).
- Technical document and Mapping – Geographical Information System (GIS) to expand and connect the network of tourist cycle paths in the region, focusing especially on the Bieszczady Mountains and their connection with the Green Velo bicycle route.
- The Cycling Policy of the Podkarpackie Region is ready to be approved, and the Concept for development of greenways and regional cycle paths network in the Podkarpackie Region is in progress.
- It has involved a numerous variety of stakeholders, some of whom have participated, or are scheduled to participate, in the study visits, which in turn generate new initiatives inspired by the OurWay project (e.g. San River).
A very ambitious Action Plan.
Northern and Western Regional Assembly (NWRA) Ireland
- The NWRA has carried out concrete actions to improve policy instruments to further strengthen the development of greenways, support for SMEs in its territory, and to improve governance, by including greenways as Regional Policy Objective, and in the county Development plans.
- They have also mapped Ireland’s greenways to raise awareness about the country’s resources. NWRA reports that this map has been used extensively by national and local government for planning purposes and funding identification. See the map here
Hungary – Hajdú-Bihar County, Hungary
- OurWay has inspired Hajdú-Bihar County to realise for the first time, a new strategic policy of soft tourism, including hiking and cycling, as a key component of the Tourism Development Concept. The county directly manages the European funds and this new policy instrument will allows them to launch calls for grants regarding soft tourism, which municipalities can apply for, to carry out specifics projects on greenways, hiking and cycling.
- In addition to this, they are also confident to be able to implement the “Treasures of Hortobágy” Greenway, with the integration of the required 3rd municipality.
France L’Herault, France
- Integration of the Green Network into the European Route D’Artagnan, a new cultural route of the Council of Europe, for equestrian practice that will attract new visitors. It was validated in May 2021.
- They have laid the foundations for marketing and communication, to advertise the area of the Department and to make the most of the good and well-kept infrastructure of the existing green network, so that tourists stay and do not just pass by. The Green Network of l’Herault, that has more than 500 kms of cycle paths, and about 2800 kms including hiking trails, connecting cultural and natural attractions of the Department, are still little known by the tourism that is concentrated on the coastal coastline; the attractive Passa de Pays greenway, a former railway, is the best known and most used section of the entire green network.
Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Vratsa, Bulgaria
- Work plan for the renovation and the promotion of the Botev route as a “green road”, which passes through the territory of the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park and Natura 2000 areas. This action will be included in the new Integrated Management Plan of the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park (update). This will assure the financing of the activity and the maintenance of the route. Prior to the preparation of the updated management plan, the Natural Park has been required to adjust its boundaries in order to integrate the Natura 2000 network sites, which are currently not included in its territory. This has been a new requirement that has led to the delay of the plan. This new phase is expected to be completed in September 2022.
- Regarding the entire “Botev Route” as a thematic route, suitable for hiking and cycling, to be experienced all year round and to promote active tourism, the partners of the Vratsa Chamber of Commerce have been working on the preparation of the “governance” of the route with the municipalities through which it runs. The 5 municipalities involved have agreed to realise this green and thematic route, once that the development plan will be approved and funding will be provided. Political instability (three elections in less than a year) has slowed down the whole process
Trends in sustainable tourism and Funding for tourism 2021-2027
EGWA, as the project advisory partner, updated key information on EU tourism policy and new funding opportunities, and made recommendations on the implementation of the action plans.
Study visit in coincidence with the Final Conference
Bearing in mind the importance of study visits, which allow us to learn more and better, as well as to enjoy these itineraries, EGWA has proposed a visit by bike to learn about Best Practices on the ground, in coincidence with the Final Conference in Brussels. This will help to continue advancing in the further deployment of these infrastructures, their governance, financing and promotion. We will soon inform you about dates and the very attractive greenway full of interesting things to see!
>> On-site visit in Vratsa District
In addition to the meetings and discussions in the room, we visited two attractions in the district of Vratsa, which are included in the Bulgaria’s 100 national tourist sites. They are part of the best practices proposed by the Bulgarian partners of the project.
The first one is the beautiful and impressive “Ledenika Cave” – (https://bulgariatravel.org/ledenika-cave/), located in the territory of the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park, near the town of Vratsa.
We also visited the Radetzky ship, which is part of the 100 national tourist sites too. The museum reproduces the ship in which Botev arrived from Romania in order to start the fight for freedom against the Ottoman rule. It is located on the banks of the Danube at Kozloduy and it is the start of the Botev Route, which ends 120km further on in the Vrachanski Balkan Nature Park near the town of Vratsa.
We were then warmly welcomed at the town hall of Kozloduy, for a meeting with the local authorities and the municipality’s technicians; we learned about the municipality’s plans to build a cycle path along the Danube and to promote the municipal recreational area on the riverbank.
The field visit ended with a wine tasting at Chateau Burgozone.
A very attractive agenda, with the added value of meeting in person after the COVID pandemic and the field visits, which motivates even more the continuation to work to complete the implementation of the Action Plans and, thus, the achievements of this very useful project.
European Greenways Association, Director
Advisory Partner – 18/ May /2022
Credit photos: © Region de Murcia – EGWA.