Trail Centres: Bringing together outdoor sports and nature conservation

Silkeborg Kommune
Published: 24 January 2024
Last edited: 24 January 2024
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Summary

Responding to the increasing popularity of outdoor sports, the lack of sports facilities in Danish parks and nature, and the sometimes-conflicting interests when accessing nature, the National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark (DIF) and the Danish Foundation for Culture and Sports Facilities (LOA), have developed a ‘trail centres' pilot project. These centres for outdoor sports are located in, or near, nature, and provide individuals and sports associations with a space to meet, train, and access service facilities and information about outdoor activities.

 

The centres facilitate and encourage engagement with nature through outdoor sports, providing a physical space for informing people about the local natural environment and how to respect it. They aim to make people more aware of, and interested in, the nature that underpins their activities. The centres also aim to protect nature and avoid damage to habitats and species by drawing activities away from vulnerable natural areas.

Classifications

Region
North Europe
Scale of implementation
Local
Subnational
Ecosystem
Buildings and facilities
Forest ecosystems
Temperate deciduous forest
Temperate evergreen forest
Urban ecosystem and build environment
Theme
Cities and infrastructure
Culture
Health and human wellbeing
Local actors
Not listed
Outreach & communications
Terrestrial spatial planning
Urban planning
One Health
Biodiversity-health nexus
Good governance of landscapes
Urban and Disaster Risk Management
Sustainable urban infrastructure and services
Challenges
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Conflicting uses / cumulative impacts
Infrastructure development
Lack of infrastructure
Sustainable development goals
SDG 3 – Good health and well-being
SDG 4 – Quality education
SDG 9 – Industry, innovation and infrastructure
SDG 11 – Sustainable cities and communities
SDG 13 – Climate action
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 1: Awareness of biodiversity increased
Target 14: Ecosystem services
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge

Location

Denmark | Almindingen, Kolding, Silkeborg, Skanderborg, Svendborg

Challenges

Trail Centres respond to the needs of both nature and people. There was a lack of sports facilities in Danish parks and nature, particular in the face of the number involved in outdoor sports and activities in nature. Given the need for more sports facilities and meeting places in parks and nature, the trail centre concept helps to bridge this gap by developing and building facilities that are specifically designed for outdoor sports in and around nature. Designing trail centres, rather than more traditional sports facilities, ensures these facilities are developed to match the needs of different user groups while promoting access and engagement with nature and outdoor sports. 

 

Protecting nature and avoiding damage to habitats and species is an additional challenge addressed by trail centres. They help to draw activities aware from vulnerable natural areas whilst also providing physical sites for educational information about how to respect nature and behave accordingly.

Beneficiaries

The beneficiaries include the local communities where the trail centres are located, local sports associations, anyone interested in outdoor sports and/or nature, tourists, and the natural environment.

How do the building blocks interact?

Using a participatory and cross-sectorial approach during the planning and design stages of trail centre development has enabled different parties to work together to delineate the minimum criteria that underpin the key decisions made regarding where trail centres are located, what service functions they would provide, and what information they would share. Relationship-building was also crucial to understanding user needs, themselves crucial for developing trail centres that increase and improve access to nature and outdoor sports activities. This approach has helped developers understand the outdoor activities that are popular or possible in the area, ensuring that they include service facilities that enable access to these nature-based activities.

 

Improving access to nature may make trail centres, for some, first points of contact with nature and may be important learning centres in this regard. Working with local partners helps determine key information about the local natural environment that needs to be shared through the centres, and the regulations that need to be put in place to help protect it. Delineating minimum criteria regarding the information that trail centres must share with users will also contribute to this.

Impacts

One of the most significant positive impacts relating to trail centres is that they increase and improve access to outdoor sports and nature. Those located close to urban areas, such as the Anebjerg Skov centre, facilitate access to nature from urban areas. 

 

Trail centres have been used as a start-point for outdoor sporting activities in the surrounding areas, with local sports associations basing themselves at the centres (able to store equipment, use meeting spaces, etc). The centres have, therefore, become popular meeting places for both organised and unorganised parties.

 

Indoor activities, such as yoga, fitness, and boxing, have also begun to use the trail centres for their activities, suggesting that building trail centres can enable more traditionally indoor sports to be practiced in and around nature. 

 

The centres have also improved access to training and service facilities in nature as centres are home to various training facilities such as bouldering walls, functional training equipment, or MTB/pump tracks. Service facilities (toilets/showers, cleaning, etc.) in proximity to nature have become more accessible, making it easier or more appealing to partake in activities based in nature.

 

An overall evaluation of all five trail centres will be undertaken once all five have been built.

Story

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Some years ago, I experienced that in many places, mountain bikers meet at petrol stations. Here, they can get shelter, pump air into their bike tires, wash their bikes, and have the opportunity to buy water, Energy Gels, and so on.

 

Correspondingly I realised that many runners also need places to meet. Later that same year, I was visiting an urban forest near the town of Rønne and I could see that many runners met in the forest at the start of running routes. Here, there they have built a small shelter with lockers and a notice board so that they could share information.

 

These examples gave me the idea to develop trail centers as common meeting places and support facilities for all users of the forest.

 

Casper Lindeman, Consultant for projects, strategies and policies for outdoor sports and nature, National Olympic Committee and Sports Confederation of Denmark.

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Casper Lindemann Sports Confederation of Denmark