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Urban regions show the way forward

Uroš Brežan accepts the “Alpine Town of the Year” award on behalf of the town. It was presented by Thierry Billet, Ingrid Fischer and Éric Fournier (from l to r) (c) Sonja Karnath

The “Alpine Town of the Year” association is celebrating its 20th anniversary. A brief summary of the facts shows that throughout the past years Alpine cities have been pioneers of sustainable development in the Alps.

Uroš Brežan has kept his promise: in 2016 the mayor of Tolmin, the “Alpine Town of the Year”, supported numerous citizens’ initiatives with several visible results. The ideas of the enthusiastic citizens of this Slovenian town in the Soça valley formed the basis for an annual programme, assisted by the authorities. One theme addressed was the promotion of public transport, ranging from rail to bicycles, while the inclusion of and support from young people were also very much at the centre of efforts: for example, the introduction of a town council for youth and creative breakfasts for young people. Tourism was the third pillar of the annual programme, featuring courses for foodies and the UNESCO programme around the Clovek biosphere reserve. The “2016 Alpine Town of the Year” thus expanded and implemented its vision of ecologically and socially responsible development.

Sustainably shaping the future

Some two thirds of all inhabitants of the Alps live in urban areas. The creation of an award and a means of networking these regions was the brainchild of Gerhard Leeb from Villach in Austria. In 1997 his hometown became the first locality to be designated as “Alpine Town of the Year”. For the past 20 years an international jury has been awarding the title, paying particular attention to the implementation of the Alpine Convention. The central concern is to combine measures for the protection of the Alpine regions with a sustainable, forward-thinking approach to their development. The activities of the Alpine towns strengthen Alpine consciousness, involve local people, strengthen ties to the region and reinforce co-operation with other Alpine communities.

A lively exchange

For Ingrid Fischer, third mayor of Sonthofen, the 2005 “Alpine Town of the Year”, such co-operation is of great importance: “The many innovative people who share their good thoughts with others represent the network’s greatest potential.” Exchanges of ideas with other municipalities, for example, involve questions of mobility just as much as cultural happenings. Sonthofen’s innumerable initiatives and events show that, a decade on, it continues to support the idea of the Alpine town, thereby sustaining the network.

For the anniversary year of 2017 the “Alpine Town of the Year” will be Tolmezzo, capital of the Italian region of Carnia. The opening ceremony will be held in April 2017. 

 

Sources and further information:

www.alpenstaedte.org/en/the-alpine-town-of-the-year-association

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