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Meteorum; the development of a Geopark
377 million years ago a meteorite impacted the Siljan area, the meteorite impact is the one of the largest in history and the largest in Europe. the impact of the meteorite created a 30 kilometer wide central cupola made of granite and basic rock. The cupola is surrounded by a structure containing many fossils. The Siljan ring is the most visited area in Sweden by geological excursions due to the rock, soil, landscape formations and geological processes in the area. In 2006 the proposal came to turn the Siljan ring into a Geopark, the Siljan ring would be the first Geopark in Sweden. (Arnesson, 2014). “A Geopark in the Siljan Ring is important to illuminate a highly momentous event – a giant meteorite impact – and to preserve an internationally significant geological heritage for the future”(Arnesson, 2014 p. 8)
The concept of Geoparks was developed by several organisations in the mid 90’s, the aim of a Geopark is to is to provide a comprehensive picture of geological diversity and specificity. It should represent the history of the region it is located in and the region itself (Arnesson, 2014). According to the European Geoparks Network (EGN) charter and Global Geopark Network regulations, all Geoparks have to be established in rural areas (Zouros and Martini, 2003, as cited in Farsani, Coelho and Costa, 2011). Geoparks are an opportunity for rural development, and they reduce the rate of unemployment and migration in rural areas. (Farsani, Coelho and Costa, 2011 P. 68) With the development of Geoparks also came the development of geotourism. “The term “geotourism” was derived from two different words, namely, “geology” and “tourism.” Geology is the study of the structure of an area, including rocks, minerals and physical components, while tourism refers to travelling to obtain services either for pleasure or for business” (Jaafar et al, 2004 p. 2). Geotourism focuses on geology and landscape. Geoparks however should not only reflect the geological significance but also ecological, archaeological, historical or cultural value. Nature, culture and social heritage are linked to each other and cannot be separated (UNESCO, 2006a as cited in Farsani, Coelho and Costa, 2011)
A Geopark has three goals which can be achieved through geotourism namely; conservation, education and promotion of the local community. The local community is an important tool when achieving these goals. (Hose, 2007 as cited in Farsari, Coelho and Costa, 2011). A geopark can be used to increase the local awareness on the significance of the site and environmental protection (Hashim, 2010 as cited in Jaafar et al, 2014). Research shows that local participation is an important aspect of the tourism development at a geological site (Tuson, 2000). The government, local community and the private sector are key stakeholders in the development of geotourism (Newsome et al, 2012 as cited in Jaafar et al, 2014)
Seasonality is an issue for the Siljan site as in winter time the temperatures can be low and there is a limited amount of daylight, the stairs located near the waterfall can be slippery due to ice and snow. Research shows that during off-season other tourism activities such as cultural activities or business activities can be used to overcome seasonality (Cuccia and Rizzo, 2011). The development of an ice skating ring can also be a solution, this way visitors can still enjoy the beautiful natur. Indoor activities can also be a solution, workshops can be held where visitors can learn how to research the different kinds of stones that can be found at the Siljan ring. Another problem is the financial means necessary to support the site. Public money available has declined over the years and forced sites to become more commercially. In Sweden “The Right of Public Access” allows anyone to enter any part of the nature as long as they leave it how they found it. This right is widely accepted and appreciated (Fredman & Sandell, 2010). This means that one cannot charge a fee for entering the Siljan site. Since money is needed to sustain the site other ways of financial support have to be found (Leask, 2010). As mentioned before the local community is a major stakeholder in a Geopark however not many locals are aware of the Siljan ring or its importance. School field trips are a way of creating more awareness. Another way of creating more awareness is to organise workshops where kids can look for fossils and learn how to study them.
By cooperating with locally based enterprises new products and services can be developed such as souvenir manufacturing, leisure related activities or culture related activities (Hose, 2007 as cited in Farsari, Coelho and Costa, 2011). This can also be an additional source of income for the area. Leisure related activities that the local community can participate in are for example; learning visitors how to fish or learn them how to row. The different signs that can be found at the various sites are all in Swedish, this might be an issue if the Siljan ring wants to attract international visitors. A solution might be to develop signs in different languages or create a digital guide. Since the sites are scattered around Siljan lake some visitors might want to drive to the various sites. A digital guide which can be used in the car might be a solution. Digital guides can give driving instructions and indicate where to stop, they can be activated when visitors arrive at a certain destination and explain what the visitor is seeing (Bohlin and Brandt, 2014)
There is still a lot of work that needs to be done at the Siljan area, the geological sites are interesting but the development of different supporting products might make the site even more interesting and financial profitable. The local community is an important stakeholder when it comes to Geoparks it is important that the awareness of the local community regarding the Siljan area is increased. The local community can also be active in the different supporting products.
Written by Antonia Broeders
Arnesson, A. (2014) Geopark-excursion in Siljanringen paper. Westerdahl/Lännstyrelsen Dalarna.
Bohlin and Brandt (2014) Creating tourist experiences by interpreting places using digital guides, Journal of Heritage Tourism, 9:1, 1-17,
Cuccia, T. & Rizzo, I. (2011) Tourism seasonality in cultural destinations: Empirical evidence from Sicily. Tourism management, 32(3), pp. 589-595
Farsani, N.T., Coelho, C. & Costa, C. (2011) Geotourism and geoparks as novel strategies for socio‐economic development in rural areas, International Journal of Tourism Research, 13(1), pp. 68-81
Fredman, P. & Sandell, K. (2010) The Right of Public Access - Opportunity or Obstacle for Nature Tourism in Sweden? Scandinavian Journal of Hospitality and Tourism, 10(3), pp. 291-309.
Jaafar, M., Nordin, A., Abdullah, S. & Marzuki, A. (2014) Geopark Ecotourism Product Development: A Study on Tourist Differences. Asian Social Science, 10(11), pp. 42-55.
Leask, A. (2010) Progress in visitor attraction research: towards more effective management, Tourism management, 31(2), pp. 155-166.
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