An integrated, multi-disciplinary program aiming to revive and preserve historical hiking paths in Greece has received a prestigious 2019 European Heritage Award from Europa Nostra.
The program, known as Greek Paths of Culture, focuses on selecting, conserving, clearing, sign-posting and linking up public footpaths in environmentally or culturally important areas.
Its geographical scope includes 409 miles of restored hiking and bicycle routes, many of them dating from ancient and medieval times, across 13 regions in Greece.
The program brings together geographers, archaeologists, historians, teachers, ornithologists and other scientists, as well as representatives from the business and tourism industries. It engages local communities, inviting schools, young people and volunteers to use the paths and even to “adopt” one of them for preservation. This process connects Greek youth with the history, maintenance and activities of the walking routes.
Greek Paths of Culture also extends the tourist season, creates new jobs, improves the health and daily life of local populations and highlights the local produce of each community.
A prerequisite for the program to proceed in each region is that local authorities or municipalities offer their support until the completion of the project — as well as maintain its wellbeing hereafter.
In an official statement, Europa Nostra commended the Greek Paths project for preserving valuable traditions while caring for the environment.
“The project blends the philosophy of well-being with history, heritage, biodiversity and landscape, and underscores important linkages between culture and nature,” the statement said. “The old tradition of experiencing landscape on foot, in contrast to modern means of mobility, is referenced and the landmarks along the paths are carefully chosen to enable the exploration of both culture and nature.”
The Greek Paths program was created by Elliniki Etairia — Society for the Environment and Cultural Heritage. Since 1972, the society has been campaigning for environmental protection and cultural heritage.
The European Heritage Awards/Europa Nostra Awards were launched in 2002 by the European Commission. The awards promote best practices related to heritage conservation, management, research, education and communication. Every year they honor up to 30 outstanding heritage achievements in Europe.
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