European Declaration for trails


European Network of Outdoor Sports (ENOS) has drafted a declaration called “European Declaration for trails”.

The declaration aims to establish unified standards and practices to ensure the sustainable and responsible development of trail networks across the continent.

We are reaching out to you to inquire about your experiences and involvement in similar projects. Your insights and contributions are invaluable to us, as they will enrich the declaration and ensure it reflects the collective expertise and vision of the European walking community.

If your organization has been involved in projects related to trail development, management, or promotion that align with the principles and recommendations outlined in the draft declaration, we kindly ask you to share your experiences and outcomes. Additionally, we welcome any feedback or suggestions you may have regarding the draft declaration.

Your involvement and support are crucial to the success of this initiative, which aims to foster a more connected, sustainable, and inclusive outdoor culture in Europe. Please fulfill the survey by 2. of April.

Thank you for your ongoing support and commitment to the promotion of walking and the values of the ERA. We look forward to your valuable input.

The document, “Draft European Declaration for Trails,” was developed by the European Network of Outdoor Sports (ENOS). It emphasizes the sustainable and responsible development of outdoor sports across Europe. The declaration sets forth ENOS’s objectives, such as promoting responsible access to landscapes, advocating for climate action, supporting the management of outdoor sports, and highlighting the social, health, economic, and environmental benefits of trails.

Trails are defined as paths in nature used for walking, cycling, or horseback riding, which can be both marked and unmarked. They serve not only recreational purposes but also play a crucial role in ecological and cultural preservation.

The benefits of trails include environmental conservation, promoting health and well-being, supporting social inclusion and community cohesion, enhancing safety and security, reducing climate impacts and resource usage, contributing to the economy, and preserving cultural heritage.

The declaration outlines key principles for trail development and management, focusing on minimal environmental impact, accessibility, and community engagement. It calls for the strategic recognition of trails by EU member states and proposes recommendations at the EU, national, and local levels. These include developing a Trans-European network of trails, creating directives and strategies for trail management, dedicating resources to trail development, and encouraging public awareness and educational initiatives.

The document stresses the importance of trails in connecting people with nature, supporting physical activity, and contributing to a sustainable, healthy, and culturally rich society. It calls for collaboration among stakeholders to realize these benefits and enhance the quality of life across Europe.

The 9 objectives of the European Network of Outdoor Sports (ENOS) are aimed at promoting sustainable and responsible outdoor activities across Europe. They focus on:

1. Ensuring sustainable access to natural landscapes and marine areas.

2. Advocating for climate action within the outdoor sports sector and beyond.

3. Supporting the organization and management of outdoor sports at both national and international levels.

4. Highlighting the health benefits of outdoor sports and their positive impact on lifestyle.

5. Demonstrating the environmental, educational, social, and economic advantages of outdoor sports.

6. Ensuring equality, diversity, and inclusion in outdoor sports participation.

7. Encouraging networking and the development of joint projects within the sector.

8. Enhancing the skills and employment opportunities of leaders, instructors, and coaches in outdoor sports.

9. Advocating for the strategic importance and support of outdoor sports pat the European level.

The declaration has been developed to highlight the importance of trails but also to call for their value to be strategically recognised by the EU, member states and national entities.

The key principles for the development and management of trails, as part of the declaration linked to the ENOS Charter and principles, include:

1. Environmental protection: Trails in natural and protected areas should be developed with a focus on minimizing human impact and protecting the environment.

2. Accessibility and restrictions: Trails should generally remain open, with possible restrictions during sensitive times to protect wildlife or ensure safety.

3. Minimal environmental intervention: Development and management should minimize impact on the environment, using locally sourced and landscape-sympathetic materials.

4. Accessibility challenges: Not all environments are easily accessible, and trail development should not replace the need for proper training and equipment for challenging terrains.

5. Urban and peri-urban development: In more accessible areas, trails should accommodate all abilities, using durable materials, while remote trails should maintain natural materials.

6. Appropriate trail furniture: Signage and other trail features should fit the environmental context, with more elaborate setups in urban areas and minimal in wilderness.

7. User conflict management: Trail design should consider width and segregation to minimize conflicts, especially in high-traffic areas.

8. Water recreation trails: Trails can also encompass water-based routes, connecting people to aquatic environments.

9. Ecosystem enhancement: Trail development should aim to enhance and restore ecosystems, promoting biodiversity and sustainable management.

10. Responsible data management: In the age of digital data, managing trail information responsibly is crucial for promoting sustainable access and protecting natural areas.

The recommendations for the European Union regarding trail development and management include:

1. Develop and promote a Trans-European network of trails (TEN-TR) for seamless connectivity across Europe, similar to the TEN-T transport network.

2. Create a directive requiring member states to develop comprehensive Trails Strategies, covering trail management, new trail opportunities, accessibility, stakeholder collaboration, and sustainable design.

3. Allocate dedicated resources within regional development funding specifically for trail development and management.

4. Prioritize the creation of green corridors and buffer zones along waterways and agricultural lands, enhancing connectivity and promoting health-enhancing activities.

5. Establish standardized signage recommendations for trails to ensure consistency and clarity across Europe.

6. Commission a special Eurobarometer on trails to gather and utilize up-to-date information on trail infrastructure, usage, and impacts for informed management and development.

At the national level, the recommendations include:

7. Elevate trail management and maintenance to the same or higher priority as roads and cycle networks, ensuring dedicated funding through various means like public-private partnerships and volunteer involvement.

8. Implement public awareness and educational campaigns on responsible trail usage and environmental conservation, and foster partnerships for outdoor education programs with schools and community organizations.

At the local authority level, the recommendations include:

9. Establish local advisory forums for trail management with community and user group representation.

10. Recognize and support volunteer contributions to trail maintenance and management through programs and partnerships.

11. Promote trails as drivers of local economies through ecotourism and outdoor activities, supporting community involvement in these opportunities.

The recommendation for digital information providers is:

12. Initiate collaborative discussions to develop regulations for trail data management, considering the EU Digital Services Act, to ensure a balance between technological innovation and biodiversity conservation, especially in protected areas.

Best regards
Boris Micic
President of European Ramblers’ Association (ERA)