Why Quality Trails Matter
1. BENEFITS TO TRAIL USERS
Due to subjective opinions, there is no such generic concept as a “good trail”. Hikers that use Green Flag trails will however be assured of satisfying experiences as they will find the trail character and facilities exactly as advertised, safe and well managed.
It is important to select the right trail according to your specific requirements as it is a well known fact that walking in nature can have specific community enhancing values:
1.1 Increasing appreciation for, and enjoyment of nature and cultural heritage
Green Flag Trails ensures that the trails fraternity can depend on a value-for-money product. It ensures that the trail users get precisely what they were promised – they can make a fully informed choice based on trustworthy information. Alternatively; if users are disillusioned they lose this potential added “quality of life “value to their experience.
Green Flag distinguishes between wilderness experiences in Pristine environments vs Rural landscapes.
Enjoying solitude in the valleys of the Drakensberg.
Creating an enlightening experience on the farm.
Traditional pioneer house Namaqualand’s “Diamond coast”.
SAN Rock Art Painting – Eland.
Ancient fresh water well on Namaqualand-coast.
1.2 Reduces stress in communities
Relaxing along a beach section of trail.
Far from the hustle and bustle of city life. . .
1.3 Improving health
Relaxing; fresh air, companionship – a healthy combination.
Healthy exercise on a remote mountain trail.
1.4 Improving social values for families and friends.
Hiking and walking, as opposed to competitive sport, enhances communication and build relationships in a relaxed atmosphere.
Renewing family bonds.
Adrenalin rush creates camaraderie.
Trails are an ideal way to introduce children to the outdoors and nature.
1.5 Ensuring a well-managed, safe hike
A trail with some excitement is normally experienced in a positive way by most hikers.
Dilapidated structures are unacceptable in Green Flag trails.
Sturdy structures add to enjoyable trails.
2. BENEFITS TO TRAIL OWNERS AND MANAGERS
Trail owners will be regarded as responsible managers in case of legal action against them as they have employed professional help with the assessment of their trail. This does not imply full indemnity against all mishaps.
With the Green Flag logo as a quality assurance mark, owners are adding credibility to their trail and making trail users aware that they have their enjoyment of a quality trail experience at heart.
This approach will expand the trails market by means of ensuring satisfied trail users, which in turn results in sustainable income and support for the trail.
With the assurance that a trail is safe and under responsible management, hikers will not feel apprehensive to hike unknown trails and visit foreign environments and countries.
Green Flag Accreditation, through its unique audit procedure identifies, acknowledges and rewards those trails that demonstrate and practice responsible management, in contrast to trails which negate the enjoyable experience and safety of hikers and responsible environmental stewardship.
Green Flag Trails gives the necessary guidelines to trail managers for maintenance and monitoring procedures of their trails so as to help conserve our natural heritage where trails pass through.
Adequate signage adds to safety management.
Regular inspection is part of Green Flag assessment.
Challenging but safe.
3. BENEFITS TO THE ENVIRONMENT
- Green Flag trails ensure the effective use of land. Large tracks of land on privately owned farms and government land lies idle as it is regarded as “unproductive ground”. These areas are often excellently suited for hiking: mountain slopes, deep valleys, indigenous forests, flood plains, riverine stretches, even marshy land. Hiking is a non-consumptive utilization of resources and provides an extra, low-investment, income to land owners.
- The concept of eco-efficiency is a recent extension of the sustainability concept…..multiple useof resources without degrading any of them; thus “adding value”. Responsible hiking trails are ideally suited for this approach.
- Green Flag monitors the extent of exotic and invasive plant species, pollution, erosion and all other environmental problems.
Eradication of invasive exotic species is part of responsible environmental management.
Neglected trail maintenance can lead to irreversible degradation.
In order to keep Green Flag status, trail managers must adhere to constant improvement of the environment.
Various tourism sectors also have well defined grading systems and quality control marks. Countries such as Australia and Switzerland have systems of assuring that hiking is not degraded into a non-sustainable industry. Slogans such a “leave no trace”, “best practice” etc. are accepted on a worldwide basis.
4. BENEFITS TO ECONOMY AND ECOTOURISM
- Capacity building for government officials and private individuals.
- Green Flag Trail system delivers a service to the tourism industry by assessing, and giving feedback on the quality of the services rendered by the trail owners/managers as to the:
- Marketing and management of their trails
- Safety – through a risk assessment study
- Degree of environmental responsibility
- Monetary value of hiking, for the tourism sector of the economy, including the outdoor equipment industry. Financial benefits
- Job creation through training. Green Flag Trails runs annual training courses in trail development:
- Planning and design
- Building and auditing trails.
Choosing the right equipment is as important as choosing the right trail.
Training Green Flag auditors equip them for new jobs.
Training for trail development: Planning, building and auditing courses.