Thursday, June 15, 2017

Knowing Your National Parks

How many Spanish national parks can you name? Any? I ask the question because the question was asked of me. Someone doing a survey on behalf of the national parks had picked me at random and phoned me. Put on the spot, I initially went blank before blurting out Cabrera and Doñana. What followed was a bit of guesswork. The lady on the other end of the phone was probably as confused as I was. Salinas, I suggested. The one in Ibiza? What about the Albuferas? I corrected myself. Partially. The Mallorca one is a nature park. But what about Albufera des Grau in Menorca or the Albufera in Valencia?

When the survey was concluded, I had still only managed to accurately recall the two, but then immediately thought, damn, forgot about Teide (Tenerife) and Garajonay (La Gomera). Four out of fifteen might not have been too bad. Two? Pretty poor really, and honestly, how could one have overlooked the Sierra Nevada?

It wasn't of course a test or a competition. There were no prizes for knowing any of the parks or indeed for having been to any. Indeed, not knowing about them was presumably part of the exercise. But was I particularly representative? I think she was able to figure out that I wasn't actually Spanish. By not being Spanish, my knowledge might therefore be somewhat limited. And being where I am might also limit this knowledge, although establishing where I was did create its own difficulty. Palma de Mallorca, she informed me. No, I replied: Alcudia. Palma de Mallorca, she insisted. There are 53 municipalities in Mallorca, I tried to explain before realising it obviously wasn't terribly important and that she hadn't in any event ever heard of Alcudia.

I'm guessing, but many a native of Mallorca might not have got much further than Cabrera. Or even that far. Many a native might have thought that the Mallorca and Menorca Albuferas and the Ibiza Salinas are national parks. They're not. They're all nature parks. So, location may well determine one's knowledge. The only reason, in all honesty, that I knew Doñana is because it was the title of a fabulous track (a long time ago now) by the Fundación Eivissa. I didn't know the reference, so I looked it up, and then became aware that Spanish prime ministers make a habit of having holidays there.

Anyway, knowledge or no knowledge, the survey had various other questions. The lady settled on Cabrera and started asking about the level of protection. Should it be increased? Yes it should, said I, before then informing her - which she didn't want to know (or I don't think she did) - that very many more of the waters around the Balearics should be declared marine reserves. She must have thought that she had found an enviro-fanatic, which I'm not especially; just that I think that marine reserves are a thoroughly good idea.

More tricky was when we got round to employment and tourism. For example, by extending the national park of Cabrera (which is both land and sea), would there be more jobs? Blimey, I've never thought about that, I more or less said. I was required to give a valuation out of ten. I plumped for four, hastily reasoning that there would be more folks to look after the park but that their numbers would be limited. What other job creation would there be? It's not as if you can build five-star hotels or luxury villas, much though hoteliers and property developers might like to. And likewise with tourism. More park or park as it already is, what's the benefit for tourism, she wanted to know. Not huge, I concluded.

There are two points. One is that current efforts seem to wish to deter tourists rather than attract them, especially to an environmentally sensitive park like Cabrera. The other is - just how many people go there as it is or are attracted to Mallorca in order to go there? And as a corollary, to what extent is the specific tourism of Colonia Sant Jordi and its environs influenced by the existence of Cabrera?

One understands that of the fifteen national parks, Cabrera has the least number of visitors. Working on some figures from a few years ago, it attracted 0.6% of the ten million or so who went to all the parks: 60,000, therefore. Within the overall scheme of Mallorca's tourism, that's a drop in the ocean, which is essentially what Cabrera is - dropped off the edge of Mallorca.

By comparison, the most visited park is Teide. It accounts for around 30% of all visitors to the national parks. But Teide has and is a ruddy great mountain. It's Tenerife's natural attraction par excellence. Unlike myself, a lot of survey respondents will have been naming Teide. As for Cabrera, I might represent 0.6% of those who were surveyed.

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