General | March 15, 2024

Scheldt valley: National Park

Scheldt valley: National Park

As of 13 October, Flanders no longer has one but four National Parks. After a tough selection process, the Scheldt Valley (Nationaal Park Scheldevallei) was one of three newcomers to receive this promising label.

For almost 50 years, the Scheldt Valley has been an important part of Flanders’ efforts towards climate change adaptation. Since 1976, the Sigma Plan has invested in a unique combination of flood control, dynamic freshwater tidal nature and recreation. More recently, the LIFE Sparc project has sped up the efforts. In its 8,000-ha area, visitors can enjoy miles of hiking and biking trails along castles, beautiful wetlands with marshes, meadows and forests of the National Park.

Towards healthy (wet) nature

The Regional Landscape Scheldt-Durme founded the River Park Scheldt Valley in 2017. It was the precursor of the National Park. That same year, it collaborated with Flanders Hydraulics Research (Waterbouwkundig Laboratorium) as well as the two partners of the Sigma Plan, the Flemish Waterways (De Vlaamse Waterweg nv) and the Agency for Nature and Forests (Agentschap voor Natuur en Bos) to create the LIFE Sparc-project.

Within the new context as a National Park, the latter will continue to work together.

(c) River Park Scheldt Valley

Through close cooperation with local organisations focussing on nature, the environment, agriculture, hunting, recreation and heritage, the National Park is able to focus on several themes. The most important of these are biodiversity, landscape care, climate, recreation, and heritage.

National Park: next steps

With its new label of National Park, the Scheldt Valley will develop  new connections between the separate Sigma areas, allowing several species to cross from one to the other more easily. The National Park will also enlarge various nature clusters, with an estimated growth from 8,000 to 10,000 ha of nature in the coming 24 years. The different areas’ nature management will also be made more compatible.

Furthermore, the National Park will focus on the reduction of external environmental pressures such as light pollution and the improvement of the water quality of the area. Better infrastructure to receive visitors will be installed, the latter especially in accordance with the carrying capacity of both nature and the residents. The support of various ambassadors, such as guides, entrepreneurs, educational initiatives and the STROOM festival, will further aid to develop and streamline the recreational options.

The complete masterplan and operational plan were handed in by Regional Landscape Scheldt-Durme to complete the  Park’s candidacy. After a thorough and tough selection procedure, a total of 4 National Parks and 5 Landscape Parks were chosen by a jury. They now have 24 years to complete the execution of the steps outlined in these documents. As LIFE Sparc approaches its final year in action, we are glad to have found a perfect successor for our communicative actions in the National Park: STROOM-festival, our educational package, the operation of the guides and our entrepreneurial network: LIFE Sparc’s legacy is secure!