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Meteorum Geopark by Sander Christiaan de Vries

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    ‘The Meteorum Geopark’

    In this essay the phenomenon Geoparks will be discussed. In particular the one that is being developed right now in the Siljan Lake Area in the Dalarna region, Sweden called Meteorum. It will start off with an interpretation of the term ‘geopark’ and geotourism.  In this way there can be no confusion about the meaning of both words. Secondly, the geopark product will be described and the potential obstacles that might occur when trying to develop a one. Lastly, attention will be given too overcoming those potential obstacles. In what way can Meteorum be successful?

    What is geo- tourism and a Geopark?

    An early definition of geotourism as strictly ‘geological tourism’ has been refined as: ‘a form of tourism that specifically focuses on geology and landscape’. Geotourism has links with adventure tourism, cultural tourism and ecotourism, but it’s not synonymous with any of these. It is about creating a geotourism product that protects geo heritage, helps builds communities, communicates and promotes geological heritage and works with a wide range of different people (D. Newsome & A. Moore, 2013, p. 25). A geopark is defined by UNESCO in its International Network of Geoparks’ program as “a territory encompassing one or more sites of scientific importance, not only for geological reasons but also by virtue of its archaeological, ecological or cultural value” (Liu, Chen & Guo, 2013, p.24).

     

    The Geopark Product

    D. Newsome (2013) states that a geopark achieves it goals through conservation, education and tourism. It seeks to conserve significant geological features, and explore and demonstrate methods for excellence in conservation and geoscientific knowledge. This is accomplished through protected and interpreted geosites, museums, information centres, trails, guided tours, school class excursions, popular literature, maps, educational materials, displays and seminars (D. Newsome & A. Moore, 2013, p. 25). All of these can be seen as an potential product for a visit to a geopark, once the owners/organizers develop it. It can also be said that geoparks are fast becoming an internationally known brand associated with quality landscape, outstanding geology and natural heritage. A European/UNESCO Geopark offers the potential to build a premium quality tourism brand rooted in sustainability given than the wider visitor experience matches the quality of the landscape and is based on operating practices that seek to improve the sustainability of geo-tourism (Global Geopark Networks, 2014).

     

    Potential obstacles

    Funding, as easily seen in the case of the Siljan Lake area, is an obstacle that can always occur. A challenge common to all geotourism initiatives is lack of funding—making the transition from catalytic projects (Phase 1) into self- sustaining, long term programs (Phase 2). To secure grant funding and make geotourism initiatives viable in the long- term, concrete evidence of beneficial impacts is imperative (Leonard, 2011, p. 7) Also, geo- tourism must not destroy what it values most. Finding others to support your cause (e.g. involvement of the local community) is also something that shouldn’t be overlooked (Global Geopark Networks, 2014).  Getting a geopark up and running as a tourist attraction begins with having geoscientists evaluate the proposed park area and work with the park steering committee (typically volunteer) to map out the geological themes and the story that can be told using natural features in the area. Much of developing the park falls to the volunteers — building the brand, making connections with existing tourism businesses, incorporating geological storytelling into activities and infrastructure (G. Nowlan, 2012).

     

    Overcoming the obstacles

    So how can this Siljan Lake geopark project be realized? Based on the obstacles given above, the first main problem Meteorum is facing is funding. Without any money, they can’t develop anything. Therefore, it might be smart too start with this problem at first. One way other geoparks have overcome this obstacle is by ‘crowdfunding’ (e.g. Hondsrug, The Netherlands). But the question that might be raised is, from which crowd should the money be asked? With the argument (in the potential obstacles) of the need for ‘beneficial impacts’, the smartest thing is possibly too directly ask the funding from the target group which will make the most use of the Geopark. When local business and governments see that there is an high demand, they might follow afterwards. As an incentive Meteorum could offer an way in which the geo- tourists themselves can be a part of the whole development themselves, and have their name associated with the park in history.

     

    Written by Sander Christiaan de Vries

     

    Reference list

    D. Newsome & A. Moore (2013): Natural Area Tourism: Ecology, Impacts and Management Google books [Online] Available on: http://books.google.nl/books?hl=nl&lr=&id=gwsenf9DisQC&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=geopark+offer+product++tourism&ots=a_1gXolp4V&sig=DL3IqYkVHiqW8cKHXzGNwjOIbLs#v=onepage&q=geopark%20offer%20product%20%20tourism&f=false[Accessed on: 01-12-2014].

    De Hondsrug in Zand(2014): CrowdFunding.  Retrieved from: http://www.sculpturepark.nl/ crowdfunding/4582189241.

    Geoparks Network (April 2008 ): Tourism best practice: Maximising visitor revenue. Retrieved from: http://www.globalgeopark.org/Articles/6382.html.

    G. Nowlan (2012): Geoparks offer tourist activites, economic development. TheTelegram.com [Online article] Available on: http://www.thetelegram.com/News/Local/2012-05-28/article-2989933/Geoparks-offer-tourist-activites,-economic-development/1 [Accessed on: 02-12-2014].

    J. Liu, X. Chen & W. Guo(2013): Volcanic Natural Resources and Volcanic Landscape Protection: An Overview. Cdn.intechopen.com [Online] Available on:  http://cdn.intechopen.com/pdfs-wm/41664.pdf [Accessed on: 02-12-2014].

    K. Leonard(May 2011) Measuring success of national geographic society’s geotourism program. Dukespace [Online] Available on: http://dukespace.lib.duke.edu/dspace...pdf?sequence=1 [Accessed on 03-12-2014].

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