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Monday, 30 March 2015

MAKING TRAILS SAFE - how it can be done..

In one of his recent blogs, “Dangerous paths” and “making them safe”, Giovanni Visetti re-opens the debate on how money is spent to improve our trails and whether some of the work is actually necessary at all.
He commences by describing the work carried out in Spain on a path once considered by some the most dangerous in the world: the Caminito del Rey. This walkway, clinging to a cliff-side over 100 metres above the river, was originally built for the transport of materials to the two hydroelectric power plants and to enable workers to cross between them.Over the years numerous sections had collapsed and following the deaths of a few foolhardy daredevils in the attempt to cross it, the
Spanish government banned all access.
Even this did not deter everyone and Giovanni includes links to some of the videos made by those who ignored the ban.
In 2011 the regional and  local governments of the area agreed to share the costs of restoration, including car parking and a museum. Work started in March 2014 and the trail reopened a couple of days ago. The entire route is 7.7 kilometres long. Entry is completely free of charge for the first six months and then will cost €6 per person. It is already fully booked up until June and an estimated 600 people per day are expected.
The whole point of Giovanni’s blog is to highlight how the Spanish government has managed in a relatively short time (total of 4 years between the start of the project and its completion) and even more importantly for a relatively small amount of money  to render secure one of the most renowned paths in its country,  making it accessible to anyone who has a good head for heights. 
It is quite a different story in our neck of the woods. Here whenever any project is carried out to improve or make our trails safer, the costs involved are generally completely out of proportion to the end result. 
Moreover, as Giovanni states, such work is often unnecessary and above all poorly executed: unnecessary because most of the paths “secured” were of no particular danger in the first place (for example Le Tese from Positano to Santa Maria del Castello or the less exposed stretch of the Path of the Gods approaching Nocelle); badly executed since apart from how the fencing is fixed to the ground, the wood used is often of an inferior quality which deteriorates quickly.
You only have to look at some of the fencing along the Path of the Gods , where extremely wobbly and sometimes broken wooden railings make things more dangerous, if anything, rather than safer. And don't get me started on the accuracy of the information on the signboards (distances, timings etc) or the quality of the English translations....In Giovanni’s opinion making paths “safe” in this way serves mainly to line the pockets of the designers, project managers and wood merchants and I have to agree.
There is talk of funds arriving for the re-qualification of Punta Campanella and the Bay of Jeranto. We can only hope that this money gets spent wisely and not squandered or  worse.
Maybe we should invite our European friends to apply for the tender. They could no doubt improve the entire of network of our paths , the Valley delle Ferriere, Faito and Punta Campanella included, at a much lower cost whilst doing a significantly better job.

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