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Exploring best practice trail development in the Algarve

Donegal County Councils new EU funded TrailGazers project is examining how the right type of investment in trails can help local communities increase visitor numbers and provide sustainable community trail management while protecting the area’s natural and cultural assets.

During a recent transnational meeting at the University of Algarve in Portugal, project partners from different regions of Ireland, including Donegal, the UK, Spain, Portugal and France had the opportunity to see first-hand the impact of trails in Loule, Albufeira and Lagoa municipalities. 

The economy of the region of the Algarve is mainly driven by tourism, receiving more than a third of the total tourists in Portugal. More than 80 km of boardwalks and trails were constructed the last decade to promote the natural capital of the region and to protect it from mass tourism. There are over 30 trails at different stages of development, conserving natural and cultural heritage and giving thousands of tourists the opportunity to discover the landscape of Algarve.

The São Lorenço trail is located in Quinta do Lago golf resort, bordering the Ria Formosa Natural Park and the Atlantic Ocean and is one of the best practice examples of public private interest to maintain and develop tourism destinations in protected areas. The Paderne trail was developed in such a way so as to ensure conservation of riverside flora and fauna in Albufeira and at the same time providing a linear corridor that connects the urban areas and beach. The Seven Hanging Valley trail, located on the coast of Carvoeiro village, was recently elected as one of the European Best Destinations.

According to Loretta McNicholas, Research and Policy Manager with Donegal County Council “Recent trends indicate an increase in nature-based tourism activity across the Atlantic Area.  Nature-based tourism is an alternative to city tourism and sea and sun mass recreation, generating positive socioeconomic impacts. However, negative environmental impacts due to over tourism and uncontrolled stepping on fragile ecosystems, socio-cultural impacts associated with interactions between people with differing cultural backgrounds, and economic impacts due to high living costs within the community are often not sufficiently considered.

“This project will examine how the right type of investment in trails can assist local communities, increase the number of visitors and provide sustainable community trail management plans that protect the area’s natural and cultural assets”.

This project is co-financed under the Interreg Atlantic Area Programme through the European Regional Development Fund.

If interested in finding out more about this project or how to become involved contact Loretta Mc Nicholas, Donegal County Council at lmcnicho@donegalcoco.ie .

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