Newsletter STEP Summer 2013
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This is the final newsletter of the STEP project. 
In the past few years the 3 participating areas worked hard on to develop sustainable tourism. Many results were achieved. The last results are presented below.The STEP guideline, which was presented at the final conference at the beginning of June, gives an overview of the results of the STEP project. 

FINAL CONFERENCE

On June 6, 2013, the final conference of the STEP project was held in the Energiehuis in Dordrecht,(NL). During the conference the guideline and a short film about STEP were presented. The  guideline gives an overview of the results of the STEP project in the 3 areas. The learning points and extras from the cross border cooperation are mentioned also. The film focuses on the highlights of three and a half years of STEP, thanks to the cooperation of the areas. You can download the programme of the final conference here. From the end of July the presentations of the speakers and the reports of the workshops can be found on the STEP website.

BIESBOSCH AMBASSADORS

In March more than 30 tourist recreational businesses signed an agreement with the Biesbosch National Park Authority. The Biesbosch is the first national park in The Netherlands to sign  ambassador agreements with individual entrepreneurs.
These agreements list details of how the Authority will support the ambassadors, e.g. to become more sustainable and promote their business. On the other hand it is expected of ambassadors to be and to stay a good ambassador. They are not allowed to offer activities which are contrary to the Authority’s vision, they will keep their knowledge of the Biesbosch up to date and they are seriously trying to make their business more sustainable. The Ambassadors pay an annual contribution to keep the quality of the network intact. The ambassadors received a plaque in the new Biesbosch house style. 

BIESBOSCH HOUSE STYLE

The new Biesbosch house style to improve the visibility and uniformity of the entrance gates to the Biesbosch becomes more and more visible. The Biesbosch Ambassadors were the first to show the new housestyle. They can be recognised from a cone-shaped plaque. At the 3 main Biesbosch entrances gates beacons and information panels were placed. Each entry gate has its own colour palette. In June benches were placed and canoe routes were signposted. A house style guide is being made with for example icons that the Ambassadors will be able to use. 

DESIGN FOR THE SCHELDELEI ENTRANCE GATE

Over the past three months three design teams have been tapping their creativity in designing the northern entrance gate to the Kruibeke Polders. Two winners were selected by the jury in March. In order for the designs to be executed, negotiations with their creators  will be held in a next phase with a view to refine the designs.  Read more.

TOP

In Lage Zwaluwe a TOP (Touristic  Transfer Point) was placed last April. From this point bike and walking routes lead through the south of the Biesbosch. There are parking facilities and there is a restaurant nearby. Signposts lead to the TOP. This is the first TOP in the Province of North Brabant and the second in the Biesbosch. Last year a TOP was opened on the north border of the Biesbosch. 

HOVETON STATION

The Broads Authority has worked with the railway company, local businesses and other stakeholders to devise a plan for Hoveton station to provide a better welcome to visitors – and to exhort them to come back when they depart. Read More.

START OF THE ENTRANCE GATE TO THE KRUIBEKE POLDERS

In the beginning of April, works involving the layout of the 'Kortbroek' multifunctional natural area, have started in the Kruibeke Polders. The Agency for Nature and Forests (ANB) and Waterways and Sea Canal (W&Z), are laying out two fishing ponds, a reed field and hiking trails within the framework of the European STEP Interreg project (‘Sustainable Tourism in Estuary Parks’), in cooperation with the municipality of Kruibeke. The redevelopment of the adjoining Scheldelei has been scheduled alongside. Read More.

PLANS FOR VISITOR CENTRE TOAD HILL COTTAGE

Toad Hole Cottage is a much-loved and picturesque little house in a beautiful location at the heart of the Broads. A typical marshman’s cottage (although few survive today), this tiny building was the home of a reed cutter and his family and it is open to the public as a museum which gives an impression of everyday life in the Broads in the 19thCentury.

The cottage also operates as a small Broads Visitor Information Centre, as well as being the base for the ‘Electric Eel’ boat trips, but space is very restricted and more accommodation is desperately needed. So during April and May 2013 we have worked with an architect to draw up plans and designs for a new building that will allow us to provide a much better service to the public, and also improve the experience of the cottage itself as a museum.

The design was a great challenge to the architect because the site is so sensitive. We were very concerned that the unspoiled setting of the cottage should not be disturbed. We were also conscious that there was no point in producing plans for something that would not be able to gain planning permission!

The resulting design is a delight, and has been widely praised. The proposed new building is set well back from the cottage, but gives good views of it. Constructed of timber and glass, it will be unobtrusive yet making a definite statement as a quality and minimalist design which disappears into its surroundings.

The visitor will be so much better served in a purpose-designed environment, which is also much improved from a staff perspective. The cottage itself will be greatly improved as the present information centre function is removed from it altogether, giving the visitor a far more atmospheric experience.

BIESBOSCH STORIES ANNO NOW

In Biesboschcentrum Dordrecht an exhibition was opened: ‘Biesbosch stories anno now’. Sitting in a chair made from inland wood with cushions made of Scottish Highlander leather, you can listen to 40 short stories of people who lived and worked in the Biesbosch. Some of the stories can be listened to on location with the new app. There is also a ‘listening chair’ in Café Restaurant Vissershang in Hank. Another chair will travel along the Biesbosch Ambassadors. 

THE BROADS – WHERE ADVENTURES BEGIN

As part of the green destination initiative in the broads, a new book has been produced, called “The Broads – where adventures begin”.
Billed as a ‘Guide for Green Travellers’, it is unique in its style and a first for the Broads in all of the UK National Parks. It is the result of a pioneering collaboration between the Broads Authority and two leading travel websites, www.greentraveller.co.uk and www.coolplaces.co.uk . The book is designed to be inspirational in character, conveying the true essence of the place, rather than being a detailed, comprehensive guidebook. Its content is entirely ‘green’ in nature, but not overtly so and it is intended to convey the truly special qualities of this magical area to the general reader.
 
The Broads Authority commissioned Martin Dunford, co-founder of the Rough Guides and owner of Cool Places, and Richard Hammond, owner of Green Traveller, to come up with their own individual take on the Broads. Readers of the Rough Guides will immediately recognise Martin’s distinctive style, as the author of the new Broads book.
 
The book has been widely welcomed as something completely new in Britain’s National Parks. It’s prime purpose is to promote the Broads as a great holiday destination, but it will also be used to raise funds for the ‘Love the Broads’ Visitor Giving Scheme, which is another initiative under the STEP programme.

BIESBOSCH MAGAZINE

The Biesbosch is the first national park in The Netherlands to come up with a life style magazine,‘Biesblad’. It is full of interesting stories, interviews, experiences, recipes, children’s pages and nice facts about the Biesbosch. It also offers an overview of the nature activities which take place around the main entry gates of the Biesbosch. The magazine is freely available at for example the visitor centres, the Biesbosch Ambassadors and the tourist offices in  the region. 

RANGER, THE APP

The 3 STEP areas developed an app together. On your hike or in a boat you gather points by following a route and answering questions. This way your ranking gets higher and then you can start adding information, sightings and pictures yourself. For each area there is a separate version: Polder Ranger and Biesbosch Ranger in Dutch, Broads Ranger in English. There is an android and an Iphone version. You can also use the app offline. Free download from appstore and Google Play from July 2013. 

DURABLE FOREST GAMES IN THE POLDERS OF KRUIBEKE

The works in the Polders of Kruibeke, whilst nearly done, are still underway and thus the area remains off-limits to the public. However, on Sunday 24 February we temporarily opened the area so local youth organisations from Great Kruibeke could participate in a game while learning about the many playing possibilities in the polders. Children between 5 and 9 retrieved the stolen winter supply of the forest inhabitants during 'Hunger in the Polders', while children and teenagers between 8 and 18 years faced off against people who were illegally dumping their trash in the area, during 'Panic in the forest'! Sustainability was, of course, the main theme of the games. Each game had an important message about caring and showing respect for the environment. You can watch the video right here!

SOLAR POWERED FERRY

This spring the solar powered ferry, which was built to connect different parts of the Biesbosch for bikers and pedestrians, got its name. The name of ‘Grienduil’ refers to the willow workers in the Biesbosch. 

ELECTRIC CHARGING POINTS FOR BROADS AND BIESBOSCH

In the Biesbosch, three electric charging points were placed last month. A further five electric charging points have been installed in the Broads in the last three months, giving a great boost to the network around the Broads and  the Biesbosch area. 

PARK PALS

The 3 STEP areas agreed to keep promoting each other’s area, even when the project will be finished. They have developed 3 park pals: Xavier the Roe, Daisy the Dragonfly and Betty the Beaver. On various occasions the animals tell the public about their adventures. Soon you will find more information on a dedicated website for the park pals.

EXPERIENCE AND ENJOY THE BIESBOSCH-FUND

Three tourist entrepreneurs in the Biesbosch have founded a fund to collect money by donations from their guests, to maintain recreational facilities in the Biesbosch. Their initiative is a result of the STEP-excursion about visitor giving schemes to the Lake District last September. More than 20 entrepreneurs have already joined the Fund: www.beleefengeef.nl

GREEN TOURISM BUSINESS SCHEME

A case study has been produced called ‘Greening the Broads’ This study details the work that has been undertaken over the period of the STEP programme to promote the Green Tourism Business Scheme (GTBS) in the Broads. It explains the GTBS in some detail, and also describes the activities of a number of businesses who are now members of the scheme. There is also a description of the Green Boat Mark, and an explanation of how it was developed.

ECOLODGE

Since May 1, 2013 it is possible to book an overnight stay on the Ecolodge.  Stayokay Dordrecht facilitates this stay. Bookings can be made via www.slapenopdeecolodge.nl. The ecoldoge is a floating building, in which you can sleep with 2 or 3 persons. The stay has to give people the ultimate Biesbosch feeling. The ecolodge was designed by Marijn Beije. His design is the result of a contest for students of the Design Academy Eindhoven, to make the Biesbosch accessible both physically and mentally.

 More information is available at www.step-projects.eu

Disclaimer: This text reflects the author's views. The INTERREG IVA 2 Seas Programme Authorities are not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.
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