P. Bitschene1, 2 & A. Schuller2
1TW Gerolsteiner Land GmbH, BrunnenstraBe 10, D-54568 Gerolstein/Vulkaneifel, Germany
2Vulkaneifel Natur - und Geopark GmbH, Mainzer Str, 25, 54550 Daun, Germany
Keywords: Vulkaneifel European Geopark Gerolsteiner Land, geo-tourism, INTERREF IIIB
For hundreds of years the Vulkaneifel area, situated in central-western Germany, has been the focus of intensive geological investigations, and geo-tourism. No wonder that Germany's first geo-trails were developed in this area, which finally became the "Vulkaneifel European Geopark", its very first steps towards a geopark were taken in Gerolstein County right in the heart of the Vulkaneifel, some 16 years ago. Time has thus come to evaluate the experience acquired and improve the design and quality of the geopark. Also, management efficiency needed to be improved due to limited resources.
160 sites, 140 km of trails, and 84 panels have been revised in order to find out the recipe for a next generation geopark. The outstanding work performed since 1989 by geologists, local authorities, and local NGOs ensured that most of the geo-sites have already been chosen perfectly. Some issues, however, could be improved in order to allow better accessibility of geo-sites, better understandability of panels and flyers, and better acceptance of the Vulkaneifel European Geopark Gerolsteiner Land. A crucial aspect to attract visitors and foster geo-tourism was the concept of developing circular, short distance geo-trails with central parking lots instead of long distance trails. Another aspect to attract geotourists was to develop thematic geo-excursions, such as "Cave Tour" and "where does all the mineral water come from", which count for an additional 1,500 well paying visitors per year. Exchange with other European Geopars in NW Europe and funding through the EU INTEREG IIIB program was vital for the improvement of quality and coherence of our geopark.