Global and European Geopark Bergstraвe-Odenwald, Nibelungenstr, 41, D-64653 Lorsch, Germany
Keywords: Quality management system, participatory approach ,successful implementation of EGN objectives
The Geopark Bergstraße-Odenwald covers an area of 3,500 km2 in the south of Germany between the two European Metropolitan Areas Frankfurt Rhein-Main and Rhein-Neckar (Mannheim). The territory offers a broad variety of locations of geological and cultural importance, highlighted by three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Since 2002, the Geopark Bergstraße-Odenwald is a member of the European Geoparks Netwrok, since 2004 a member of the Network of Global Geoparks of UNESCO. More than 100 local authorities and many other stakeholders are actively involved in the regional development process that has been induced under the overall management of the Geopark administration.
Within a short time period, a multi-tiered system of infrastructure and visitor service was realized in the Geopark's territory. The facilities, services and co-operations are implementing the philosophy and objectives of the EGN and hereby strongly fostering the establishment of geotourism and environmental education as tools for sustainable regional development.
The complexity and the dynamics of the Geopark's development have arisen the need for the establishment of a framework that complies quality criteria and standards as well as best practise examples. Therefore a tailored quality management system has been set up within the participatory development process of the Geopark. It addresses all tiers of facilities and services and contains criteria for "Geopark partnerships" as well as for the entire area of cooperation and communication. The evaluation/revalidation framework of the EGN and the Network's philosophy served as overall guideline, the continuous process of mutual exchange in the EGN created the benefit to learn from experiences in other European regions.
Quality management in the Geopark Bergstraße-Odenwald proved to be an effective tool that facilitates the entire sustainable development process. The participatory approach that has been applied during elaboration and operation of the system has to be regarded as essential prerequisite of success.