The missing links in Latvia’s hiking system : a case study of the Nature Park Talsu pauguraine in Latvia

University essay from SLU/Department of Landscape Architecture, Planning and Management (from 130101)

Abstract: Urban green spaces provide ecosystem services, have a positive influence on human’s mental and physical health, and give room to perform outdoor recreation. Research shows that outdoor recreation not only improves health but also benefits the economy, education, and integration. During the COVID-19 pandemic, access to urban green space gained greater importance as a place to socialize and at the same time be able to keep distance from each other as other indoor and outdoor activities became limited. Those facts gave an insight into how important it is to protect and give access to urban green spaces and nature. I heard about an EU project where they are currently developing a long-distance hiking trail through Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Beyond that, the hiking trails in Latvia are not as developed as in Sweden and I decided to spend some time in Latvia to explore more. I have proposed a development plan for the Nature Park Talsu pauguraine with the purpose to improve the possibilities to hike and to increase people’s access to hiking trails and thereby promote improved health through outdoor recreation. I also researched about how the culture of outdoor recreation looks like in Latvia and how the existing trails in Latvia are planned and managed. Latvia has long traditions connected to nature but due to Latvia’s history and culture, outdoor recreation is not deeply anchored in society. Through education and improved access to nature with help of an outdoor recreation infrastructure, the culture of outdoor recreation in Latvia could change with the next generations. In Latvia, the planning and management of hiking trails are relatively new, and several issues need to be solved. The planning and management of hiking trails could be improved in Latvia by taking inspiration from other countries like Sweden and, for example, implement an outdoor recreation coordinator who simplifies the development and cooperations. With simple actions, the hiking infrastructure can improve in Talsu pauguraine. What is challenging is to reach an agreement with the involved actors in such a project. Moreover, the management of the trails needs to take place continuously, the work needs to be evaluated and the development plan must be updated regularly. For a faster result, one of the actors should be the project leader and push the issues of improving the hiking trail infrastructure forward.

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