Whilst regional parks are well established in other European countries, in Norway regional parks is a concept under continual development. The aim of the concept is to create an integrated area administration and to increase the value creation based on local natural and cultural resources.
The Nærøyfjord World Heritage Park is one of the first Norwegian examples of regional parks and it is the result of developmental processes that were initiated at a grass-root level. The establishment arose out of a desire for a collective authority over the nature and culture-based community development and a need for the coordination between the municipal authorities and other contributors linked to the world heritage area.
From volume to niche
Like many other rural communities Aurland is faced with many challenges in relation to depopulation, slow industrial growth, conflicts arising from nature conservation and taking the safeguarding of the natural and cultural heritage. A burning issue today is the dramatic restructuring in agriculture. In Aurland, more so than in many other places, this has led to a complete change from high volume production to niche production. More and more agricultural representatives seize the opportunities to offer new experiences to a tourism industry that up to now has been dominated by thoroughfare and passive tourism. Is it possible for the domineering part of the tourist industry that focuses on transportation, accommodation and service to find a common interest through the new experience-based agriculture? Can commitment to such an economic development combine conservation and development?
Common platform and meeting places
Experience from the European regional national parks shows that it actually is possible if two conditions are present, firstly if one is able to agree on a common qualitative platform, and, secondly, if one can establish meeting places and a framework for strategic interaction between all participants within such a scenario.
This is some of the reasoning behind the creation of the Nærøyfjord World Heritage Park.