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Guidebook for Accessible Nature Trails: Design Guidelines and Evaluation System

The Guidebook for Accessible Nature Trails – Design Guidelines and Evaluation System (the “Guidebook”) was mainly developed to support the implementation of certain innovative interventions of the BIO2CARE Project for improving and promoting selected recreational and bird-watching ecotrails in the two countries of the Interreg V-A Cooperation Programme Greece-Bulgaria 2014-2020. In this context, it offers specific, legislation-based and practical guidelines to the Beneficiaries of the Project, who will carry out technical works on selected ecotrails under their responsibility, so that it is feasible for as many visitors as possible, including persons with reduced mobility, to enjoy them.

The two countries where these interventions will be carried out, i.e. Bulgaria and Greece, have institutional frameworks in place for accessibility to structured environments (specifications, guidelines, etc.). However, they do not have comprehensive design guidelines for accessible interventions in the natural environment. Consequently, the intention is to make the guidelines and the relevant evaluation system in this Guidebook a useful tool in the hands of the competent authorities.

To this end, the Guidebook consists of two main parts. Part One includes guidelines aiming to assist in designing the new accessible recreational and bird-watching ecotrails under the BIO2CARE Project, in compliance with the national legislation of the two countries, while also using specifications, guidelines and best practices in place in Europe and internationally. Part Two includes a practical evaluation system aimed to assist in evaluating accessibility at the interventions carried out under the Project, offering instructions and tools for the inspectors, which allow them to prepare, schedule and carry out suitable inspections, so as to: (i) identify potential negative factors for visitors with reduced mobility, (ii) assess how critical these factors are, (iii) propose suitable corrective measures and (iv) develop a trail accessibility profile for the purposes of promoting the trail to the general public.

This Guidebook was also developed with the aim of being distributed and used more broadly, meaning not exclusively for recreational and bird-watching ecotrails, but for accessible nature trails in general, beyond the purposes of the BIO2CARE Project.

For this reason, it was also designed as a useful tool for officers of authorities, management agencies, and organisations involved in protecting and showcasing the natural environment of the two countries, so that they may:

  • Comprehend the traits and needs of persons with reduced mobility (Introduction).
  • Design new nature trails (Part One) in the area where they operate, so that it is feasible and satisfying for as many persons with reduced mobility people as possible to visit them.
  • Evaluate existing nature trails (Part Two) in the area where the operate, prepare proposals for improvements, and develop a trail accessibility profile, so that they may offer valuable information to potential visitors.

It is believed that the broad circulation and use of this Guidebook may contribute significantly towards:

  • Promoting broadly the right of all citizens, without exclusions, to access and enjoy the natural environment of the two countries and raise awareness among all stakeholders.
  • Improving the accessibility and attractiveness of the natural resources of the two countries and developing new activities in nature for visitors with reduced mobility.
  • Capitalising on the natural wealth of the two countries, with the aim of making the tourism product stand out and attracting new tourism markets that are developing strongly and steadily both globally and domestically, such as tourists with disabilities and elderly tourists.

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