PROCEDURE FOR ATTAINING GREEN FLAG
There are three options:
A. Full-fledged Green Flag Certified Audit
Trail owners that apply for Green Flag Trail accreditation will be visited by a certified auditor who will prepare a report of the trail according to the steps listed below.
The process runs as follow:
- A certified accreditor establishes contact with a trail owner and discusses ball-park figures of costs involved.
- Green Flag management draws up a formal quotation.
- If the quote is accepted by the owner, 50% of the cost is to be paid into the HOSA account after which the trail is then visited by the auditor; accreditation forms are completed and the report is sent to Green Flag.
- If there are rectifications to be made on the trail that inhibits the allocation of GF certification, the owner is informed that he has to present Green Flag with a plan of action with an accompanying anticipated programme (with target dates) for the upgrading.
- If such rectifications however involve safety issues or any other prohibitive aspects such as unacceptable conditions (e.g. very poor access road), the trail will not be accredited unless these have been brought into effect. This entails more than a “letter of intent” by the owner and might require a second inspection entailing cost.
- Green Flag will analyze the fieldwork forms and report, assess the owner’s plan of action and present the final report to the auditor as well as to HOSA Quality Control committee for verification.
- If acceptable to all concerned, the owner is informed by the auditor of the result.
- If all involved are satisfied, and full amount paid by the owner, the information is transformed to the require format and sent to the webmaster for entry on the website greenflagtrails.org.
- Four trail photographs of good quality can be sent by the owner to the webmaster for placement on the website.
- Any subsequent changes to the website will be for the cost of the owner.
- The owner is responsible to notify Green Flag of any changes between two formal audits. Neglect on his part may lead to suspension of the Green Flag. Any changes during this period will be for the account of the owner.
- A certificate of compliance is compiled and sent to the owner.
- The owner will be presented with a schedule of maintenance that he has to complete after each inspection by himself and attach this form to the wall of the huts so that hikers can assess if the maintenance has in fact been executed.
- It is compulsory that a Hiker’s Questionnaire be placed in the last overnight accommodation for hikers to be able to report back to Green Flag management as to conditions on the trail.
- Copies of GF reports will be kept on file for future use. The report acts as a document reflecting the baseline conditions and any future audits will have to ascertain if there is improvement or deterioration – in which case GF status will be removed after the owner has been given ample time to rectify problems.
- Currently audits are to be done every two years. A system of self-assessment has recently been introduced whereby owners may qualify for a re-audit on a four years’ cycle.
- B. Re-audit (2nd audit)
Follow-up audits are normally done every two to three years (based on the sensitivity of the environment) but a system of interim self-auditing is available under special conditions – to be applied for by the trail owner. Thus:
• A questionnaire is to be provided to all hikers in which they indicate problems on the trail (Questionaire to Hikers). The GF committee will assess this feedback and act accordingly.
• The owner has to provide a maintenance plan for the upkeep of the path and facilities; substantiated with photographs where relevant.
• The owner has to inspect the website www.greenflagtrails.org on a regular basis to ensure that all the information is correct.
- The safety of the trail will be for the responsibility of the owner alone.
• Spot checks will be done by certified auditors free of charge but serious short comings will necessitate a re-audit.
C. Preliminary Self Audit
Trail owner completes a downloadable form from Green Flag Trails and prepares a report of the trail. This is then submitted to the Green Flag Assessment Panel, who assesses the validity in order to award a certification of Self Assessment. Such a trail will appear on the website with the inscription that it has been self-assessed and not yet fully Green Flag certified. (Category B Green Flag). It signifies intent from the owner to deliver responsible trail products.
Image by Alejandro Escamilla: CC