An award that highlights enviromental protection and sustainability achievements.
The European Ramblers Association annouced 15/09 2012 during the ERA General Meeting in Stavanger, Norway, the winners of their second annual Eco Award.

1st prize: Club Vosgien Vallée de Saint-Amarin (F)
2nd prize: Mountain Meitheal (IRL)
Special prize: Frankenwaldverein e.V. (D) and  Israel Trails Committee – SPNI (ISR)

1st Prize: Restoration to its natural state and enhancement of Le Grand Ballon, the summit area of the Vosges Mountains, Alsace, France

 Le Grand Ballon, which comes under the management of the Féderation du Club Vosgien, Vallée de Saint-Amarin branch (VCSA), is situated at 1424 m. above sea-level and is visited by many tourists annually. Because of its uniqueness and the richness of its fauna and flora typical of mountainous terrain, the region is protected by local authority regulations designed to conserve the indigenous plants and animals.

 The VCSA initiated a project in 2008 to conserve and restore the affected area at Le Grand Ballon.

The project supported by the joint syndicate for the management of Markstein and Le Grand Ballon and the Vosges (Ballon) National Park, comprised extensive work. This was started in 2009, and successfully completed by the VCSA in 2011.

The conservation work which went on for three years from 2009 renewed the layout of the paths. Old, decayed wooden railings were removed in 2010. Intensive work was done in 2011 – on the one hand new wooden railings were installed along 360 m. of paths, as well as fences along 785 m. On the other hand retaining walls on the west side were repaired. Finally new signposts were erected and boards put up with information about the area.

 The project was paid for by the public purse.  All work was done voluntarily by members of the VCSA.

 Thanks to this project the following goals were achieved:

  • Conservation of the mountain environment, including reeds and the exceptional ecosystem of the area.
  • Conservation of unique flora specific to Le Grand Ballon.
  • Halting erosion caused by foot traffic by re-routing paths for the numerous visitors  to Le Grand Ballon.
  • Altering the course of walking trails while retaining the interest of the site for tourists.
  • Work carried out in cooperation with the agricultural needs of the area.

2nd Prize: Mountain Meitheal, Ireland. Improvements to the Wicklow Way  
Mountain Meitheal is a group of volunteers who undertakes and receives actions with the aim of protecting forest and mountain areas in Ireland. The trails are built and maintained with sensitive efforts to the landscape, they perfectly fit in with the surrounding landscape. It promotes sustainable recovery with encouraging personal responsibility. “Meitheal” is the Irish word for a working group made ​​up of volunteers whose project can be a benefit for a general public or a community.

 In this sense is to understand, that since 2005 the Moutain Meithal has taken the work on the most popular long-distance trail in Ireland, the Wicklow Way. The 130 km long trail runs from Dublin through the Wicklow Mountains to Clonegal and was opened in 1981.

Between 2005 and 2006, a section which is called “Deerpark” was renewed. In 2006, the Mullacor refuge, in 2009, the Brusher’s Cap refuge and in 2011 Mucklagh refuge were set up at environmentally sensitive locations. Over a weekend in summer 2010 at the Flags pass was at a permanently wet and marshy site built a boardwalk of 120 meters.
At Knockree is the path that runs here very steep and was eroded as a result of the intensive use by hikers, mountain bikers and horseback riders; between November 2010 and September 2011 was repaired over a length of 460 m. Finally, in December 2011 was repaired the Glensoulan bridge, which was damaged by flooding. This bridge is of particular importance: the paths that lead through it is frequented very well because of its proximity to Dublin. Overall, in 48 days were 279 volunteers during 3,485 hours at work.

 The project was financially supported by the government as well as private sites.

Special prize: The Frankenwaldverein Germany: ‘The long life of a yew tree’  
In the summer of 2012 the Frankenwaldverein, which has its headquarters in Naila, carried out an environmental proctection campaign.  This took place in the Frankenwald National Park where a trail designated the ‘Yew Way’ runs through the forest at Schwarzenbach am Wald. The section is named ‘The long life of a yew tree’.

 An 800 year old yew, a protected natural species, was becoming so seriously threatened by the shade of neighbouring spruces, that it was at risk of dying.  In order to prevent this, and to guarantee the continued life of a remarkable tree, volunteer members of the Frankenwalsverein working in their free time carefully cut down the spruces supervised by the local environmental authorities.

The aim of the campaign was to ensure the conservation of the yew and to improve the visual impression made on walkers along this well-used trail.  This goal was successfully achieved.

 Fortunately the campaign was backed financially by the local environmental protection authorities. 

Special prize: Israel Trails Committee, Tel-Aviv/Israel: The Round Be’er-Sheva Trail (RBST)  
Round Be’er-Sheva Trail (RBST) is a 42 Km marked hiking trail that encircles the city of Be’er-Sheva. The RBST is based on previously marked trails, to which new trails had been marked and added, in order to allow a continuous hike around the urban area of the city. The trail serves as a mediator between the urban cluster and the open outdoors, as it is situated on the border of the developed space and open space. The trail was originated by the Orienteering group of the Society for the Protection of nature in Israel. Its construction was only possible thanks to generous support from private and official sides, among them the Israel National Parks Authority. The motivation for erecting the project was the primal will to establish a green belt that will surround the built urban space of the city of Be’er-Sheva. This belt consists of wide and diverse environmental open spaces that, in a major part of them, future intensive and massive development and construction plans are to take place, resulting in great and irreversible environmental changes to the open spaces, the flora, the fauna and the landscape.
The RSBT was designed to go through the open spaces that border the city in order to create a green belt and merge with the city’s future planning, knowing that one cannot stop the natural expansion of the city but rather participate and minimize the impact.

Principals and vision of planning the RBST:

  • Link existing infrastructure with new trails.
  • Encourage the use of elements and sites en route to create centers of activity.
  • Clinging to the existing topography and paths, rather than building special new bike and hiking routes.
  • Easy and convenient access for all.
  • Multi-Cultural – the city of Be’er-Sheva is a metropolitan kernel of many and different types of population. In order to make the local outdoors accessible to the local residents and its environs, the RBST leads to many centers of activity, such as sport, health activities, hiking, biking, world and local heritage sites, archeological and historical sites and religious (Christian, Muslim and Jewish) sites.
  • The trail as a well groomed and special backyard – the Round Be’er-Sheva Trail, living to its name, surrounds the existing edifices of the city. Maintaining the trail and its environs will lead to stronger sense of place and identification with the open outdoors, thus preserving its natural resources, flora and fauna.
  • Engaging the community in planning and executing. When work on the RSBT started the people of Be’er-Sheva took active participation in constructing and maintaining the trails.
  • Preserving and conserving the open spaces around the city – the trail and the trails that connect to it pass through were the natural assets are emphasized and felt.