Geoadventures – a conference report


On 26-27 May 2016, experts from the Czech Republic, Iceland, Norway, Germany and Switzerland shared their experience for heritage interpretation as an added value for Geoparks, regarding management, regional development and tourism. 
The Ralsko Geopark (Czech Republic) organised the international conference, Geoadventures, which opened a discussion on innovative methods of heritage interpretation, geoguides, development of nature tourism products as well as the issues regarding management and financing of geoparks, international networking and a contribution of geoparks for sustainable regional development and tourism. Speakers were representatives of European and Czech geoparks, representatives from the regional and local governments and more experts on the topics of discussion.
The discussion regarding contribution and added value of geoparks for regions and tourism confirmed that geoparks have a significant potential. They provide a way to strengthen regional development and tourism whilst ensuring the protection of natural and cultural heritage of their area. They present a message to future generations about the area and life of the ancestors there. They also help local people connect with the area by showing them what they can be proud of and why. 
Although geoparks bring opportunities and impulses for local business activities, their sustainable development cannot be made without support from regions and municipalities. The experience in the geoparks differs between parks and it is influenced or determined by impulses which led to the establishment of a geopark, for example availability of funding or municipality support. The support usually consists of regular funding for the operation of a geopark and/ or for its projects. The grants from national and transnational programmes are the second significant resource of finances for geoparks. Moreover, the transnational programmes develop transnational cooperation and networking, a valuable inspiration and fresh impulses for geoparks.
The panel on heritage interpretation brought a fruitful discussion, mainly on modern technologies and their pros and cons, which concluded with a consensus that modern technologies should be used in a carefully considered way to ensure both that potential visitors are attracted and motivated to visit from a digitial pre-visit experience (marketing, website, schools outreach, etc), and to maximise the physical experience of those on site in the geopark, allowing for increased access whilst not diminishing the real experience (i.e. to augment the history of the site or to engage physically challened visitors with views that they may not otherwise be able to experience). Without any doubt, the modern technologies are a suitable tool for interpretation of complex, long-lasting and invisible geological processes. As another method of interpretation which can be engaging and expressive, land-art was introduced; but it was found that it is necessary to work closely with land-artists and spend time to explain the topic for the work to them to get the best collaborative results. The conference concluded with an excursion which showed the participants examples of the Ralsko Geopark interpretation topics.
The conference, Geoadventures, was the final event of a Swiss-Czech cooperation project with Geopark Sardona and HSR University in Rapperswil. The Swiss experience helped the Ralsko Geopark to pass the certification and to become a national geopark of the Czech Republic. Within the project, main topics and messages for the interpretation were formulated and implemented into a common strategy. The strategy is supplemented by an interactive map presenting places of interest in the geopark to the visitors.
The conference was supported by grants from the Fund for billateral cooperation on national level in the EEA and Norway funds 2009 – 2014 and the Swiss-Czech Cooperation Programme.
It was followed by the land-art festival Transformation in Geopark Ralsko, which brought the abandoned village, Jabloneèek, back to life for a day. The remembrance of the landscape and moments from history were portrayed by land-art works of Czech and German land-artists and displayed in the village.

Petra ČernouÅ¡ková works as a project manager for the Ralsko Geopark in the Czech Republic (www.geoparkralsko.cz). You can get in touch with her at petra.cernouskova@geoparkralsko.cz

To cite this article:
Cernouskova, P. (2016) ‘Geoadventures – a conference report’. In Interpret Europe Newsletter 2-2016, 15

Available online:
https://www.interpret-europe.net/fileadmin/Documents/publications/Newsletters/ie-newsletter_2016-2_summer.pdf

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