Calanques park is made official
Newest national park protects the white limestone creeks and cliffs between Marseille and Cassis
FRANCE has created its newest national park - to protect the white limestone cliffs of the Calanques, east of Marseille.
The Parc National des Calanques is the first new park in six years and Prime Minister François Fillon - who is stand-in Ecology Minister - signed the decree which ends years of efforts and arguments.
It gives more voice for local residents and workers and aims to protect the land and marine environment for future generations while encouraging sustainable development.
The Calanques - with around 30 long creeks lined by high white cliffs between Marseille and Cassis - are visited by more than two million people a year and this is expected to increase as it gets more publicity.
For visitors and workers, the new status means non-fishing areas being created across 10.5% of the sea area and a ban on jet-skis. Boatmen will no longer be allowed to use loudspeakers in the creek areas.
On land, hunting will still be allowed but with increasing restrictions, hikers will be encouraged to stick to marked paths and climbers will have to avoid sensitive wildlife zones.
The Calanques contains, at Cap Canaille, the tallest coastal cliffs in Europe and also 90 archaeological sites, including the Cosquer submerged cave which contains paintings rivalling those of Lascaux and Chauvet.
It is also home to France's last surviving pair of Bonelli's eagles and nearly 140 protected species of fauna and flora.
With a core area of 8,500 hectares on land and 43,500ha at sea, the Calanques national park is open to all without charge. Visitor centres will be built at the main entry points to give information and guidance.
Photo: Michel Roux