Parks Beyond Borders: Global National Park News Includes Opening Of Long Distance Trail In Wales

Wales Coast Path hikers

The 870-mile Wales' Coast Path debuts May 5th amidst events and national celebration. In combination with the Offa's Dyke National Trail, the paths permit a loop hike around the entire country.

Wales’ Coast Path Debuts May 5th

In major news for Wales, and for people who are attracted to long distance trail trips, the May 5th opening of the Wales Coast Path makes it possible to walk the entire coast of the country from Chepstow in the South to Queensferry in northern Wales.

Combine that 870-mile path with the existing Offa’s Dyke National Trail along the border with England, and walkers “really will be able to ‘discover the shape of a nation’” on a 1,030-mile (1,660 kilometer) loop hike around Wales. Visit this site for maps and more about the path.

Publicity for the event said, “For those who have worked on the Coastal Access Improvement Programme since its inception in 2007, it is hard to believe what has been accomplished in 5 short years, given that most long distance paths of this nature can take decades to develop.”

Among the agencies working for the trail are the Welsh Government in partnership with two national parks, the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), and sixteen local authorities. To achieve the new trail, the Welsh government spent £2 million per year and the European Regional Development Fund allocated nearly £4 million over four years.

The new trail is part of the Welsh travel buzz that late last year led Lonely Planet to name Coastal Wales “as the No. 1 region in the world to visit in 2012.” If you've never been to Wales, this year may be the time to go. Wales is an increasingly hip travel destination. It is home to some of the United Kingdom's most spectacular mountains, a truly awesome coastline, picturesque villages, a resurgent Welsh language, and an assortment of the planet's most impressive castles.

Debut ceremonies will include three main events on May 5th at Roald Dahl Plas in Cardiff Bay, Aberystwyth Promenade, and Flint Castle, Flint. The events take place between 11 am and 4 pm. For more on the events, visit the schedule section of the Wales Coast Path website. Environment Minister John Griffiths will officially open the Wales Coast Trail at the Cardiff ceremony.

Some of the festivities will include “Taste of the Coast” with purveyors of local food and drink sampling their wares.

As part of the celebration, news releases say, “the Ramblers Cymru are organising the Big Welsh Coastal Walk, to take place over the whole of the bank holiday weekend” with a series of walks all along the Wales Coast Path. “The ambition is to get as many people as possible walking around the coast of Wales in perhaps the largest mass participation event Wales has ever seen.” The “Big Welsh Coastal Walk will cover as much of the Welsh coastline as possible over the weekend of the 5th with walks for all abilities, including a walk up Snowdon to view the coast and a walk from the summit to the coast.” Snowdon, at 3,560 ft (1,085 meters), is the highest summit in Wales (and is named Eryri in Welsh).

For information on the walks, visit the Ramblers website. And be sure to check out the path’s Facebook page.

Leopards Spotted in Chinese Preserves

After last week’s announcement that the new “Land of the Leopard” National Park in Russia’s Far East will protect the Far Eastern leopard and the critically endangered Siberian tiger, the Wildlife Conservation Society has announced that the first-known camera trap photos of an Amur leopard have been taken just across the border in China.

The World Wildlife Fund is hoping for cross-border cooperation between the new Russian national park and the Hunchun Amur Tiger National Nature Reserve in China’s Jilin Province, so the photos of leopards taken in that preserve is good news and suggest that leopards may be returning to China.

Jilin Province recently announced the result of a survey that estimated 8-11 leopards roam across the northern preserves. A release by the The Wildlife Conservation Society said, “estimates of the total number of Amur leopards have hovered around 30 since the mid-1970s, but these combined Russian and Chinese results suggest that leopard numbers may be rising to 40 or more.”

The staff of Hunchun Reserve used 16 camera traps in areas where tiger or leopard tracks were found during winter surveys. A dozen of the camera traps were donated by the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Layoff Controversy Affects Parks Canada

According to the Ottawa Citizen, “The Public Service Alliance of Canada has filed a grievance against Parks Canada for recruiting volunteers for layoffs before the agency decides which jobs and programs it intends to shed to meet its reduction targets.”

The PSAC, one of Canada’s largest nationwide labor unions, has members in every province and territory, and is the biggest union in the Canadian Federal Public Sector.

The paper said, “Parks Canada issued the first call for volunteers (to be laid off) the day after the federal budget, igniting a rush of employees who want to take one of the incentive packages offered to workers who leave.” The grievance filed against Parks Canada is based on the position that “the workforce adjustment agreement (WFA) that lays out the rules for managing downsizing does not allow departments to seek volunteers until they have decided which jobs are going and have alerted employees that their jobs could be affected by cuts.”

The Citizen quoted PSAC’s national vice-president, Patty Ducharme, as saying, “It’s a small agency. What if everyone put their hands up? Would they privatize the whole agency?”

The union’s objections lie in part with the short time given to workers in which to decide whether to take the buyouts. Normally, in such staff reduction situations, employees have the potential to soften the hardship by swapping— which “allows workers who want to leave to volunteer for a layoff and trade positions with surplus workers who want to stay. The volunteers who swap into surplus jobs get access to the departure incentives, such as a buyout, training allowance or early retirement without stiff pension penalties.”

The paper quoted Doug Marshall, president of the Union of National Employees, as saying “it’s unclear whether volunteers would qualify for the incentives.” Marshall was also reported to say it was “unreasonable for Parks Canada to ask people to decide within 10 days when the contract gives surplus employees 120 days to decide on which option they wanted.”

The Public Service Alliance of Canada urged its employees “not to jump” at the request to volunteer to be laid off. The paper said PSAC president John Gordon “asked Parks Canada chief executive officer Alan Latourelle to stop and re-start the process according to rules.”