The aim of the project VER-DI is to use designated protected areas as site-specific drivers for local development
Local communities are often in opposition to nature protection projects and in many cases there has been little attention to create linkage between protected areas and economic development of local communities. This project has demonstrated that protected areas can be beneficial for local communities and can contribute to economic diversification.
The focal point of the VER-DI project has been to initiate a process of developing sustainable site-specific activities and products contributing to local economic growth.
The range of development efforts has been broad:
- Competence development
- Increased knowledge and use of local foodstuffs
- Alternative and improved accommodation
- Creation of new activities and experiences
- Improve the visitor experience through use of new information technology
- Enhance the use of nature as a pedagogical resource
The objective of working with so many aspects of local development has been ambitious
The project has succeeded since it has achieved significant results within the many different areas. It has turned out that one of the strengths in the project is the ability to test different approaches in each area. In all cases knowledge has been shared and the project has succeeded in establishing a number of cooperations across partners and countries with significant results.
An important result is that in addition to the tangible results in the various regions some future development track have been identified.
The large number of tangible results have opened the eyes of local residents and politicians for the development potential and created commitment to continue the development that has begun.
Another important result has been the establishment of modes of cooperation between municipalities in the project areas enabling them to pursue joint development strategies within nature-based tourism.
The five areas
The five areas that are part of the project are National Park Mols Bjerge and Skjern Å both in Denmark. Trillemarka-Rollagsfjell Naturereserve and Hardangervidda National Park (part situated in Nore and Uvdal Municipality) both in Norway and Fegen Naturreserve in Sweden.
The Skjern Å area was designated for years to be a national park but during the project the plan was abandoned for political reasons.
Partners in the project are 9 municipalities, 2 regional administrations, 1 university and 2 tourism destination offices.
Results of the project
There are many results of the project – different competence development programs, brand building, outdoor education networks, development of outdoor educational modules for schools and school camps, training courses for voluntary guides, reports and analyzes, initiating of networks, establishing and/or signing trails, establishing of mountain bike trail, produce different maps, development of angling tourism etc.
The development of a smartphone application is another important result of the project. The apps have different functionalities – information on different points of interests, routes and trails in the areas, practical information, quizzes and games.
Other important results are the establishment of a bicycle route around Trillemarka and the making of a bicycle map covering the southern part of Sweden. Both initiatives creates linkages to other destinations and makes it possible for visitors to find their way to Trillemarka and Fegen.
The development of an online booking module is in the same way a result that serves several purposes. It makes it possible for entrepreneurs in an easy way to place part of administration on the internet at the same time as the product becomes more visible.
The VER-DI project has demonstrated that protected nature areas do have a development potential. The project has initiated development processes that will continue after the project is ended and the project partners are confident that more results will emerge in the years to come.
See an Outline of the main results (pdf).