ECO Award 2014

An award that highlights environmental protection and sustainability achievements.

The European Ramblers’ Association annouced 27/09 2014 during the ERA General Meeting in Schöneck, Germany, the winners of their fourth annual ECO Award.

1st prize: Mountaineering Club Jelenak, Pancevo (Serbia) for their action ”Deliblato Sands”.
2nd prize: Office Régional du Tourisme Région Mullerthal, Echternach (Luxembourg) for their action ”Your forest – my forest!”.
Special prize: Kölner Eifelverein, Köln (Germany) for their efforts to promote the use of public transport for the use of their walking trails.

1st prize: Mountaineering Club Jelenak, Pancevo (Serbia)
Trail Marking in Deliblato Sands and Cardak

Deliblato Sands Area /Deliblatska Pescara is the Special Nature Reserve important on a world scale. This wide and unique European natural phenomenon attracts attention of many nature lovers and walking friends not only from areas near Deliblato Sands but from the whole region, despite the fact that it is not a mountain but a sandy terrain.
By the end of 2009, members of Mountaineering Club “Jelenak” addressed the general manager of the forest farm “Banat” from Pancevo with a special request to mark trails.  The idea was to make trails available and safe for visitors so that they can enjoy walking and enjoy nature in the Deliblato Sands Area. Their request was accepted and trail-marking started soon.
The project of trail-marking was a unique opportunity for visitors. It was the first time that the Nature Reserve Deliblato Sands was ever open for the general public.  Marked trails enabled ramblers to take walks on their own and enjoy and learn about biodiversity of its many natural rarities, plant and animal species as well as its geomorphological forms and steppe areas, etc.
The project was subdivided into four phases.
The first phase of trail – marking included marking of Trail 1 during the year 2009. There were many volunteers, among who there was one Swedish diplomat and his wife from Jamaica. In 2010, along with Trail 1 marking, for which the Mountaineering club “Jelenak” used its own funds, “Jelenak” applied at the Provincial Secretariat for Youth and Sport with Cardak trail marking and equipping project. Provincial Secretariat had approved necessary funds that allowed the continuation of the activities started.
In the year of 2011, the second phase of trail marking started with Trail 2. Also, at this point, in the center area of Cardak there was placed a large billboard that showed maps of all marked trails.
Third phase: One of the major problems was that in many areas trails had been overgrown with grass so they needed to be cleared and the grass cut off. Due to this problem there were numerous volunteer actions organized with objective to cut thorny shrubs that had totally closed trails. Around 100 members of Mountaineering Club “Jelenak” participated in these labors. This painstaking work of clearing the trails, often at high temperatures that are common in Deliblato Sands, lasted many weeks.
The fourth phase in this project was accelerated and it included marking of Trails 3, 4 and 5.  Trail marking was completed with the help of City of Pancevo and Municipality of Kovin.
Info tables were installed along marked trails. They show marking points on trails (to show the current location) and are also filled with ecological information (about forest, water, fires). These info tables also show a chronological story about Deliblato Sands from the year 1813 until today.
A big billboard showing the spring of the river “Vrela” had also been installed as well as benches and tables along trails, serving as resting places.
All materials used for the marking of the billboards, signposts, poles were made of eco- friendly materials and wood.
An eco-tourist map showing the marked trails was published after termination of the trail-marking work.

2nd prize: : Office Régional du Tourisme Région Mullerthal, Echternach (Luxembourg)
Sensitiveness action „Däi Bësch – mäi Bësch!“ (Your forest – my forest!)

The region Mullerthal in Eastern Luxembourg is a perfect walking region with spectacular rock landscapes. The 112 km long Mullerthal Trail (since 2014 a Leading Quality Trail – Best of Europe) and the network of local trails attract many visitors for extended walks or shorter strolls along the hotspots into the region. The extensive use of this landscape by guests or local residents at certain points leads to an increased appearance of sundry problems: Walkers leave the marked trails and disturb sensitive fauna or create erosion or damage to the infrastructure. Protected plants are picked and the noise or unleashed dogs disturb wild animals. Free camping in the woods and – above all – trash left behind are a big problem.
A regional working group „Forest and Tourism” evaluated ways and means to solve this problem. Awareness-rising measures addressed to the forest visitors seemed to be necessary. The visitor’s attention should be drawn by placing signs, reception structures and orientation boards in four languages (German, French, Dutch and English) along the walking trails.
The following measures have been achieved:
Pictograms and conduct rules for walkers were developed, designed to create a positive approach. In most cases, rules for a gentle relation with nature are formulated as bans which are often subconsciously associated with negative emotions by its readers. The new conduct rules which have been worked out are trying to avoid these undesirable and reactionary reactions. They appeal to the willingness to cooperate, to the understanding and the personal responsibility of the trail users.
Pictures of children collecting trash in the forest are supporting the conduct rules and the pictograms. By using school children for the picture shooting, these were involved and their awareness risen.
The action „Däi Bësch – mäi Bësch!” is a long-time project which can successfully be implemented with relatively little financial effort. It is innovatory and can (and should) be taken over by other regions.

Special prize: Kölner Eifelverein, Köln (Germany) Partnership with a public transport company / Intensification of public transport use The Kölner Eifelverein e.V., founded in 1888, is the independent walking club of the city of Cologne. It is member of the German Walking Association. Most of its members are citizen of Cologne. It counts more than 800 members – with substantial gains in the last two years. From the beginning of its activities, the focus was on the use of public transport. Many walks started in the city, other starting points were reached by train and later also by bus. In the 1950s, the Kölner Eifelverein successfully introduced parking lots for walkers in the recreation areas around the cities and started to offer circular walking routes. At the same time, a basic conflict arouse, in as much as traditional walk leaders did not allow persons who came to the starting points of the walks by car to participate at their guided tours. In the last decades, the use of public transport almost automatically became the dominant means of transportation to reach the starting points of walking tours. This was also supported by the walk leaders of the club. Today, almost 100% of the participants at guided tours reach the meeting points – these are the places from where the walking groups go to the starting point of their walk in common – or the starting points – these are the points to which walkers go on their own to start the walk – by public transport, by bicycle or walking. The project which was realized between 2011 and 2013, developed from the aims set in the constitution of the club. Due to the transport network, its density, the prices for transport services of the different public transport companies and the goals set by the main actors involved to offer environmentally attractive packages, the individual auto mobility lost more and more of its attractiveness. Individual travels to and from starting points of walks proved to be uncomfortable and expensive. Thanks to a close cooperation with representatives of the public transport system, it was possible to implement a resource-saving walking policy with little negative impact on the environment taking into account the use of public transport. Instrumental for this were the Kölner Verkehrsbetriebe (KVB), which are part of the Verkehrsverbund Rhein-Sieg (VRS) connecting 29 public transport companies in the region. Thereby, a reinforcement of the orientation of the walking plans in the public transport offers took place. Furthermore, the support of the public transport company for club activities could be gained, for instance by distributing detailed traffic information in the walking plan to inform members to use the services of the public transport companies.