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The intangible heritage in the Natural Park of the Volcanic Zone of La Garrotxa

25 Jul

In 2012, Europarc-España produced the publication Immaterial Heritatge. Cultural and Spiritual values. Manual for there integration in protected areas. Europarc-Spain Manual. Work Program for Protected Areas 2009-2013. This manual focuses on three aims: to describe the importance of intangible heritage for the management of protected natural spaces; to establish a basic methodology for determining these intangible values, as well as making a series of recommendations to incorporate the intangible heritage in the planning and management of protected natural spaces.

The Special Plan for the Volcanic Zone of La Garrotxa is the main instrument for the management of the territory of the Natural Park and the usage of its resources. The current Plan has been approved by The Government Agreement of September 14 and published in DOGC no. 5735, dated October 15, 2010.

The document in the first and second points of article 34: Protection of cultural heritage draws-in this affective human / nature link previously mentioned:

1. The organs of the Park will complement the actions of the competent administrations in the cataloguing and protection of the cultural heritage. They will also promote awareness with regard to the recognition of the intangible cultural heritage and the protection of those elements that help to conserve the tangible cultural heritage.

2. In accordance with the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage Convention (2003), the intangible cultural heritage in the scope of the Plan integrates the uses, representations, knowledge and techniques - together with the instruments, objects, artefacts and the cultural spaces that are inherent to them - that are recognized by the population as members of this heritage. For the purposes of the Special Plan, only the intangible heritage is taken into account that is compatible with the conservation objectives adopted.

The intangible values linked to nature and consequently to protected areas, are closely related to the territory, the local population and the visitors of these spaces, although often in an unconsciously.

In the territorial scope of the Natural Park and extensively in the whole of the region of La Garrotxa, work is focused on the valorisation and promotion - directed at the local population and visitors - of its intangible heritage, through different actions included in the strategy and the program of action of the European Charter for Sustainable Tourism; an accreditation that reached the Natural Park of the Volcanic Zone of La Garrotxa in 2001 which enables public and private stakeholders to work together for a sustainable tourism model in this region.

Public managers and private agents who work together to develop the strategy and action program mentioned above, believe in the need to publicize and at the same time raise awareness - amongst visitors and the local population - of the importance of enhancing and respecting the natural and intangible heritage and values of our territory. This strategy is thought to be the best way to contribute to the preservation and natural values of the area.

In order to illustrate how we promote our region and its heritage, here are some examples what we do and firmly believe can help to contribute to enhancing this added intangible value.

- Giving value and protecting the sky at night. Work has begun to classify the quality of the night sky of our region. Dark skies are an appealing valuable asset both for the conservation and improvement of the natural environment, as well as a tourist appeal in non-urban areas.

- By declaring the special protection areas of our region as areas of special protection of acoustic quality. With the aim of working to improve the quality of life of the local population as well improving the visitors experience. For more information read the study for the recovery of silence at La Fageda d'en Jorda, 2013.

- By elaborating and putting to work a Plan of museum spaces. Areas of natural and cultural interest that require better interpretation of their natural and intangible heritage. The aim is to promote the integration in the environment and ensure the tranquillity of the activities that are carried out there, promoting Silence as the added value and main asset.

- By providing mini-libraries areas within the natural environment: here we aim to promote the interaction and exchange of knowledge between the local population and the visitors, offering the possibility of reading in an extraordinary/unique natural environment. Additionally, we are developing a new design connected to the natural environment, in collaboration with Olot’s School of Fine Arts.

- By searching for trees with a history: here we aim to raise the awareness of the ecological, cultural and historical value of outstanding trees in La Garrotxa. The objective is to motivate local people to contribute with their knowledge by finding outstanding trees and relating the tree to reference material, starting an exchange of information to activate protection, custody and disclosure measures. Ex: The Sort’s oak tree, The ‘La Matas’ yews, etc.

- Garrotxa Cultour: This is an initiative with the objective to promote the natural and cultural tourist options in La Garrotxa. We do this by identifying and cataloguing more than 200 cultural elements that are included in 15 thematic perfectly marked options.

The commitment to finding a link between immaterial and natural heritage is to enable both the visitor and the local population to appreciate their surroundings and to value the landscape and environment via silence, tranquillity, spirituality, beauty and a touch of mysticism that will surely produce in turn an enjoyable and unforgettable experience.