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Environmentalist Hopes to Bring Eco-Tourism to Touques R...

Environmentalist Hopes to Bring Eco-Tourism to Touques River in Northern France

A meeting with Emmanuel Schmitt, a 23-year old naturalist from Deauville, reveals a passion for the biodiversity of the marshes of the Touques River as well as that of the Côte Fleurie. He hopes to develop a type of local tourism that is focused on nature.   Schmitt could talk for hours about the particular

A meeting with Emmanuel Schmitt, a 23-year old naturalist from Deauville, reveals a passion for the biodiversity of the marshes of the Touques River as well as that of the Côte Fleurie. He hopes to develop a type of local tourism that is focused on nature.  

Schmitt could talk for hours about the particular orange that covers the marsh water during a summer sunrise, or about the blended shades of insects with turquoise wings who fly as if by magic. As he talks, you can see the sparkle in his eyes.

One usually thinks of the solitary naturalist, who takes an inventory of different species and lives in his bubble of nature as far from humans as possible. But Emmanuel Schmitt doesn’t see it like that: “It comes with a lot of responsibility: sharing your passion and the discovery of species with the public on nature visits,” the latter of which he voluntarily organizes.

Black-Winged Stilt, Nord-Pas-de Calais, France

His corner of paradise: the marshes of the Touques River and their 1,500 hectares. He calls them “a preserve of biodiversity” between Deauville and Pont-l’Évêque. There, one can find “a dozen species of wild orchids, black-winged stilts (a sort of seagull with an elongated beak and long feet), egrets, green apples and northern crested newts which resemble little dragons.

“Since I was very little, I loved nature. I started by making bird feeders and purchasing a nature guide. I had the tendency to want to go to large nature reserves, but came to realize that nature was everywhere.” He is in the process of getting his associate’s degree in Nature Management and Protection near Rouen, and is also working at the Departmental Council of the North in the service of fragile natural spaces. For the past year, he has largely been devoting himself to the development of an association that will really shake things up...

“We just renamed it Pays d’Auge Nature and Conservation in order to give the organization a large horizon. We want to participate in the development of ecotourism in the area.”

A New Type of Tourism

Hoping to make the structure of the organization more professional, a large sustainable development project was proposed to local officials. “We would like to see a structure created that oversees all of the natural heritage and ecotourism in the north part of Pays d’Auge. That would help bring in new tourists.”

Valley of the Touques River, France

Regarding the Touques’ marshes, it will above all be necessary to “restore , as they have not been properly looked after for a long time. This will be possible through funding from regional organizations, state departments, etc. and help safeguard those species that are native to this area and are threatened with extinction, constantly struggling against floods.”

Next, Schmitt imagines “constructing a 'Home of the Marshes,' in front of the international horseback-riding branch of Saint-Arnoult. This building would also serve as the starting-point of hiking trails that would join up with the bird observatories and bike paths in the area, all the way up to Pont-l'Évêque, Mont-Canisy, and the marshes at Villers…”

He has started to survey certain mayors on the subject, all of whom seem enthusiastic. “This worked for Marquenterre Park, in Baie de Somme, and again at the Teich Bird Reserve in the Bay of Arcachon."

What ecotourism initiatives are in your community? How has ecotourism played a role in preservation in your city? What efforts are being made to increase visitors’ appreciation of the local landscape?

Original article, originally published in French, here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

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Katelyn Hewett recently graduated from St. Olaf College in Minnesota with a Bachelor of Arts in English and French. During her time at St. Olaf, she enjoyed playing the French Horn in the St. Olaf Band, working as a teaching assistant for first-year...

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