Monday, 5. November –Eldhraun ASCENT Project site visit
The 5th Steering Committee Meeting was held at Klaustur, after which a short visit was made to Eldhraun ASCENT project site, located at 10 – 15 km west of Kirkjubæjarklaustur.
The team visited Vatnajökull National park visitor center at Kirkjubæjarklaustur where rangers introduced the site, the challenges faced due to increasing tourism numbers and the complex threats facing the great lava field and its vulnerable moss.
A number of options were discussed at the ASCENT project site of Eldraun, including a raised walkway and fenced paths for educational purposes.
Eldraun requires further and holistic planning regarding design and construction. The municipality of 6.905,6 km2 is the second largest in Iceland, but only 450 inhabitants, and defined as fragile in relation to urban development. This is a great task for a small community with little capacity in a very popular tourist destination.
Tuesday, 6. November – Fjaðrárgljúfur, Skógaheiði and thematic seminar
Site visits were made at Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon and Skógarheiði upland.
Until recently Fjaðrárgljúfur was off the grid of the general tourism trail in Iceland, until Justin Bieber, made a music video. What happened after that is commonly known in Iceland as the “Bieber effect”, with tremendous growth in visitor’s number from 30k to 300k in a couple of years, followed by immense footfall in the canyon and great footpath and viewpoint erosion at Fjaðrárgljúfur.
The challenges range from parking space, footpaths material use, viewpoints and toilet facility has proven very difficult. Skógarheiði has many of the same challenges as Fjaðrárgljúfur with similar soil and vegetation and heavy footfall with approximately 800k guests annually.
The event was held at SCSI’s office in Reykjavík that afternoon. The two hour itinerary included the following speakers and talk:
- Árni Bragason, Director of SCSI: A welcome and presentation on SCSI legacy and future
- Liam Ward, Chair of the ASCENT Steering Committee: ASCENT Website launch
- Hreinn Óskarsson, Forestry service of Iceland: Forest footpath work
- René Biasoné, Environmental agency of Iceland: Volunteer work at protected areas and National parks.
- Tómas G Gíslason, Mosfellsbær municipality: Current footpath work and future approach on Úlfarsfell
Wednesday, 7. November – Úlfarsfell ASCENT project site visit
The ASCENT team met with the Environmental Department of Mosfellsbær municipality, the Icelandic Forestry Service and the local forestry service at the second ASCENT site, Úlfarsfell. Úlfarsfell (295 m) is located in the capital area, is very easily accessible with great views over the capital city and is mainly used by local recreationalists. The site has a variety of paths and roads but generally is not highly eroded, however with multiples uses; the danger of erosion can be predicted.
Footpath management at Úlfarfell is complex with the mountain located on the border of two municipalities, Mosfellsbær and Reykjavík and the multiuse there; including hill walkers, bikers, 4×4 drivers, Broadcasting Corporation, forestry and tours seeking Aurora borealis.
The Forestry Service manages its surrounding paths carefully with few exceptions, with their traditional forest style pathwork. Different approaches are adopted, due to different natural settings, building wooden steps and using Eco-grid in between and managing water.
Exchanging ideas and discussing different structures and methods with project partners is a very efficient way of getting solutions to the challenges encountered at both Úlfarsfell and Eldhraun in Iceland.