InnovAlps: Transnational exchange on social and spatial innovation in nature parks

Wednesday, 04 May 2016

All over the Alps nature parks are working at challenging the view on regional development and lead them to change. Due to their experience and expertise in social and spatial innovation they can be seen as “ambassadors of change” who can be an inspiration to others. The project InnovAlps aims at showing innovative approaches and projects that are being realised in cooperation with various actors and at identifying their recipes of success and encountered problems.

Project centered around 3 pilot regions 

Therefore, ALPARC has been working directly with 3 pilot regions since 2015. After a spatial analysis of all three regions a transnational exchange has been started with a series of workshops that enable the pilot regions to get to know each other and to immerse in the topic of innovation. The intention is to establish a common view on regional development and innovation in nature parks and to identify success factors and potential problems. By offering an “external view” on the regions a mutual learning process should be stimulated.

Every workshop is divided in 3 steps:

  • “innovation in the pilot region”- including a presentation of the region, its governance and its innovative projects
  • “field trips” – a possibility for participants to explore project sites and meet local actors
  • “workshop” – in-depth discussions of innovative approaches and the topic of innovation in a collective and open atmosphere. This part also opens the floor to find common problems and exchange new ideas for solutions.


First exchange in Tirol: The Nature park Tiroler Lech and its lighthouse project “Lechweg”

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From April 20th to 21st the first workshop took place in the Nature park Tiroler Lech in the Reutte region of Tirol, Austria. The Swiss and French partners had the possibility to immense in the landscape of the river Lech, one of the last free-flowing rivers in the northern Alps (protected area 44km²).

Contrary to the predominant strategy of progressive ski development in Tirol this region positions itself as a sustainable tourism region. The lighthouse project of this strategy is a 125km trail that starts in Vorarlberg and leads all the way through Tirol to Füssen in Germany, the Lechweg or “Lech trail”. This trail is made for hikers of all abilities as it does not include difficult passages or steep ascents. It lets the hikers observe the transformation of this last free-flowing river as the landscape changes from mountains to plain. The biggest part of the trail lies inside the protected area of the nature park which has been a popular attraction for visitors, hikers and locals since its inauguration in 2012. The Lechweg is the first trail to be labeled “Leading Trail Quality – Best of Europe” for its routing and quality. The touristic offer has undergone quite a development in the last years with alternative routes to the lateral valleys, a cycling track or a whole set of regional products carrying the brand “Lechweg” being developed.

Regarding spatial innovation, this project managed to bring the stakeholders together in a long-term cooperation. The Lechweg is a touristic product that connects different territorial regions and their local players at different levels and valorises the natural and cultural heritage of the region and the nature park in respect of the environment. This projects gives a strategic guideline to regional development in the region of the nature park.  The principles of the Lechweg: discovery, deceleration, authenticity, proximity to nature, inspiration and encounters also reflect current trends in society.

Common questions and needs

During the workshop the success factors of the Lechweg were presented and discussed: the strategic and integrated approach to regional development, the cooperative climate between stakeholders, the existence of strong ambassadors fighting for the idea and exterior views of the region. In spite of the differences between the pilot regions concerning national and regional frameworks, the participants found themselves in the problems and challenges that the Lechregion faces. The workshop was able to determine common questions and needs: How can we induce change in conventional structures, procedures and conventional ways of thinking? How can we realize an idea? How do we convince critics? What should be the role of nature parks in regional development and innovation?

These questions will be discussed in details during the following two workshops that will take part in the regional Nature Park Pfyn-Finges (Switzerland, May 11-12) and in the regional Nature Park Baronnies Provençales (France, June 20-21).


A final conference on innovation in alpine nature parks

On September 29th and 30th ALPARC and the pilot regions of InnovAlps would like to invite you to the final conference on innovation in the regional nature park Pfyn-Finges in Valais, Switzerland “Alpine Nature parks – Models for change”. As the final event of InnovAlps the conference aims at presenting innovative approaches and projects in the regions of nature parks and to enable an exchange on spatial and social innovation on an alpine scale. A detailed program will be sent out soon. Registration will open by the middle of May.

The InnovAlps project is part of the ALPARC thematic priority “regional development and quality of life”, which addresses directly the needs of rural areas in the Alps and their populations. The project is supported by the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment FOEN.

For further information

Video: Extract Wanderlust ARTE „le Lechweg“

Official site of the Lechweg

Official site of the Nature Park Tiroler Lech

Official site of the regional development Außerfern


ALPARC - The Alpine Network of Protected Areas

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