European Geoparks : Earth heritage protection, Geotourism and Sustainable local development

Category Other
Group GSI.IR
Location International Geological Congress,oslo 2008
Author Zouros, Nickolas۱; Mc Keever, Patrick۲
Holding Date 21 September 2008

Established in 2000, the European Geoparks Network (EGN) aims to protect geodiversity, to promote geological heritage to the general public as well as to support sustainable economic development of geopark territories primarily through the development of geological tourism. The network has drawn together territories from across Europe that share these aims and which are now working together in an active and dynamic way to achieve them.
Originally consisting of four territories, the network has, as of September 2007, been expanded to include 32 territories across thirteen European countries. The network operates primarily by continuous electronic communication, frequent coordination meetings, organization of common events and the establishment of common projects and promotional activities through which territories exchange ideas, experiences and best practice thereby supporting each other to promote Geoparks as ideal destinations for research, education and recreation. Geoparks exchange exhibitions and staff, organize a common festival every year - the European geoparks week, publish the European geoparks magazine, books and leaflets, participate in major tourist fairs and promote Geoparks through national and international media.
Although geosite and geomorphosite protection and management is always the main focus of activity in geoparks, network members adopt a holistic approach to the promotion of our natural and cultural heritage. All sites of interest in a European Geopark are linked and benefit from protection and management measures. Furthermore all members consider full, local community involvement as essential to our success.
Examples of activities in geoparks include geosite interpretation activities, establishing of geological walking routes (guided and non-guided), nature observation activities, education tours, school outreach days and promotion of geological heritage to the wider tourism sector.
In 2001 the European Geoparks Network signed a formal agreement with the Division of Earth Sciences UNESCO whereby UNESCO gave the network its endorsement. A further agreement was signed with UNESCO in 2004 whereby the EGN was given responsibility for regulating membership of the UNESCO Global Network of Geoparks in Europe. Membership of the EGN is for a period of four years after which membership is reviewed and assessed. The first revalidation procedure occurred during 2004 and since then is one of the main internal procedures of the Network which helps to keep at a high quality level all Geopark operation, infrastructure and services. Although still less than 8 years old, the European Geoparks Network has made great advances in achieving geotouristic development in rural areas with significant Earth heritage and is attracting increasing attention from local communities across Europe as well as the wider geo-scientific community.