The main secret to making a project sustainable after it has closed is to involve local people as much as possible and do things THEY need, not just what the project monitoring team needs.
This is the case for the “Proposals for environmental policy and governance based on demonstration of environmental, social and economic benefits from tourism in the Slītere National Park- A Natura 2000 territory” (LIFE07 ENV/LV/000981 POLPROP– NATURA). The project goals were to develop an environment and tourism policy proposal document on sustainable tourism for biodiversity in Latvia, to develop a sustainable tourism management model for Natura2000 sites and to increase positive awareness of Natura2000. This was achieved in very practical ways. A former military area, Slītere is a national park that was set up in 2000. Although tourist numbers were growing, the quality of the tourism product, the interpretation of the site and the economic viability of the community were all limited. Conflicts between environmental institutions, local government, residents and businesses did not facilitate development of the territory.
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The Latvian Country Tourism Association „Lauku Ceļotājs” runs participatory workshops where particular effort was placed to prevent self-appointed elites from making decisions on behalf of the community. A project political supervision group was set up to enable
drafting of quality and justified proposals for improvement of environmental legislation concerning the project scope. The meetings helped to link the problems found with the legislation documents to be improved. Based on a simple, yet understood tourism plan, new tourism products and touring routes in the park were built based on common sense, and local stakeholders could see how their participation led to a visible improvement in their environment. Particular effort was placed in reaching an agreement on what to do and how it would be maintained before acting, so there was ownership and consensus.
Amongst other tasks, five new tourism products were developed as touring routes for hiking, cycling, driving, boating and nature watching. Routes were marked, outdoor information stands erected, a tourism guide was created and a botanical plant finder guide was written using accessible language. in making decisions and changes. While this is often a slower process it can have longer lasting positive effects.