French natural parks warn of the “harmful effects” of mass tourism
Amid the uncertainties surrounding the evolution of Covid-19 and border restrictions, many French people are choosing to explore their own country instead of going abroad for summer vacation. The implications are not all positive.
After a high summer season 2020 for nature tourism, this year promises to be busy. Reservations are up 20% according to figures from the consulting firm G2A for the National Association of Mayors of Mountain Resorts (ANMSM).
“If we welcome this reunion between the French and their nature, we must now call them to be extremely vigilant,” warned the national and regional parks of France in a collective letter last month.
“Our natural spaces are fragile.
In 2020, the Hautes-Alpes of south-eastern France welcomed the largest number of summer tourists ever recorded.
The Parc des Ecrins saw its attendance jump, as did the region of Gavarnie, in the Hautes-Pyrénées, where there were 30% more tourists than in 2019.
“The main change is the new public who come from nearby towns and who are not all familiar with the mountain”, underlines Pierrick Navizet, from the Parc des Ecrins.
“Explosion of bad manners”
At Lac du Lauvitel, a magnificent and easily accessible natural site in Isère, in the south-east, up to 1,000 people walked on weekends in August last year. Park rangers noted an “explosion of bad behavior.”
They recorded a doubling of the number of offenses compared to 2019: waste spills, forest fires, theft of equipment, broken chalets …
“We were a little tired”, after last summer, admits Pierre-Henri Peyret, the boss of the sector, adding “but it is up to us to adapt”.
Presenting a management plan for the new season, he said the priority was better communication to inform the public about good practices, such as wearing dirty shoes, staying away from herd guard dogs and not light a fire.
There are two ways to get the message across. The first is Instagram, where many inexperienced hikers find their next idea for an outing, and the second is in the parks themselves, where more rangers will be present to “raise awareness of the regulations” but also to organize activities, such as identification. from wildlife.
Shuttles, not cars
In the Vercors, a massif near the cities of Lyon and Grenoble, the protected site of La Molière last year saw 294 visitors jostle for 60 parking spaces in one day.
“When you have spent half an hour parking, arguing with another on a space, you are no longer in unspoiled nature, you are in mass consumption”, laments Quentin Chabanne, project manager at Vercors regional natural park.
The park is now considering banning cars from the site and replacing them with a shuttle service.