This activity was financed by the Eco Trail Project and was implemented by external expert, working in collaboration with local actors, leading to the common proposal of 2 Eco Trails in the Region of Korca, Albania.

Any opinions expressed in this report remain those of the experts and do not represent the views of the Albanian local authorities or of the European Commission.

Any materials and photos used in the preparation of this report are product of the experts.

TABLE OF CONTENTS
PREFACE
GOALS OF THE STUDY
1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY    

2. ACTIVITY CONTEXT    
2.1.    Background    
2.2.    Description of the area
2.2.1     Dardha Region
2.2.1.1 Dardha Cultural Trail

ANNEX I: Methodology
ANNEX II:Overview and description of the ecotrails in Korca region

PREFACE

Purpose of this study is to identify the available trails existing in Korca region, highlighting two of them, proposing the needs of their improvement and also the necessary interventions for development, mapping, signaling of them, in order to record, promote and make them usable for tourism purpose. The implementation of works adapted to the environment and the infrastructure will attract and retain more visitors, and will develop recreation activities and other alternative forms of tourism in Korca region.
This study is performed in the transaction with the acronym ECO TOURISM TRAILS » (full title:" Differentiation of tourist product: eco-tourism trails in the cross-border area for the promotion of alternative tourism »), which is integrated in the European Territorial Cooperation Programme "Greece - Albania 2007-2013" co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund and national funds of Greece and Albania.
This work will be done in accordance with the Terms of Reference provided by “Eco Tourism Trails” project.
The study report relates to the interventions in two eco trails as follows:
i. Dardha Cultural  Trail of a  total length of 5 km
ii. Rinia Park Sport Trail of a total length of 8 km
Planned operations include not only the designs and schemes of the trails, but even providing the information for recreations activities and facilities along the trails. This will contribute to the development of ecotourism in the region, but also in the promotion and protection of the natural ecosystem.
The two paths will be constructed within the administrative boundaries of Korca and Dardha regions.
This Report consists of a narrative part and 2 annexes which are mentioned in the Table of Contents and below.
This study report provides details on the experts’ work performed during February 2014 to April 2014 and delivers the main product of this activity – Study for Trails Recording and Identification of Mapping, Development and signaling requirements of 2 Eco- trails
This Report contains:

  • A description of the work performed by the experts during a three month period.
  • A description of the area and of eco trails, plan of interventions, model of interventions.
  • Attachments that comprise the main key outputs produced by this activity
  • Annexes that can be further used  to improve the conditions of 2  Eco Trails identified (sportive and cultural)
  1. ANNEX I: The methodology used in order to identify the complete overview of the eco trails in the Region.
  2. ANNEX II: Overview of the eco trails on the Region and Short description

Please note that the External Experts Contracts for performing this activity have not been attached to this Report.

GOALS OF THE STUDY

  • The main goals that this study has considered are as follows:
  • The promotion of the area and its natural and cultural wealth, as an attraction for visitors
  • Information and awareness in protecting and managing the environment.
  • The development of ecotourism activities.
  • Environmental education.
  • Stimulating the local economy of the region and contributing to the sustainable development of the region.
  • Enhancing local activities, especially in culinary art, handicraft and artisans.

1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

During a three months period the expert worked, external expert was assisted by the project team and partners in the area the study was performed.
The Main objective of the study was the identification of the potential eco trails in the region of Korca and Dardha and also the elaboration of detailed plan of intervention for two eco trails (Sportive, Cultural).
During this assignment the expert accomplished several missions in the region and mainly on the area of the eco trails (Voskopoja, Dardha, Vithkuq and Korca surroundings). There were

  • inspected the terrains
  • identified the potential Eco Trails
  • estimated their current situation
  • selected the two eco trails
  • prepared the intervention plans

Regular communication with Korca Municipality and Dardha Commune was established, through visits, gathering information, assisting with data and maps.

2. ACTIVITY CONTEXT

2.1.Background

The tourism sector depends on the natural and cultural environment, and can also be a vehicle for the protection and promotion of natural and cultural resources. Ecotourism can support social and cultural entrepreneurship and become a diverse source of inspiration and motivation for local communities, enabling them to implement effective measures that can contribute to their livelihoods and sustainable development. These benefits are critically supportive of the local effort to reduce economic, social and territorial disparities as well as to limit local immigration. Through international networking, Ecotourism can also become a transnational platform for cultural exchange and mutual understanding among the peoples of Europe. Solutions for the problems of environmental protection and the sustainable development of both urban and rural areas can be shared more readily by involving all stakeholders (local authorities, small business, local communities, etc.) and encouraging active community engagement.

2.2 Description of the area

2.2.1 Dardha region
Dardhë is a community in the municipality of Drenovë in the Korçë District, Korçë County, Albania and a well known ski area of Albania since the 1920s. In 2012, the first ever ski tow in Albania was opened at Bigell Ski Resort near Dardhe.
A Greek school was founded in the village in 1810, while at the beginning of the 20th century Greek education was flourishing with the establishment of additional schools: a girl's school (1901-1902) and a middle level school. In the school season of 1901-1902 a total of 150 pupils attended the Greek schools, which were sponsored by the local community fund, as well as the local Orthodox Church. The first Albanian school opened in 1917, starting with initially 20 pupils, and with financing from the Vatra, which will sponsor the new school in 1924 that is still in place today. Dardha has historically suffered from heavy emigration. Many families of the area would become the first Albanian community in USA, and Romania as well. People from Dardha have given an immense contributor to Albanian American organization. Dardha patriots would start the society "Besa-Besë", "Kombi" newspaper, and the unification of the Albanian American societies into a single federation, Vatra, and continue to struggle for the Albanian national cause. Vatra cannot be imagined coming to life without the Dardha contributors. (http://en.wikipedia.org)
Interesting info about Dardha village
- First Village resort in Albania
- The name "Pear" comes from a legend that says the insurgents who founded Dardha, where they found refuge on a sheep, when asked "where you are", said "In Stani under pear". It is a wild pear that was found there, and the first historical evidence found so far in Pirsos Greek encyclopedia, states: "In Dardhe, Albanian village, Greek school opened in 1768 on the renewal".
- Tourist Guide to Dardha first published by the Korças dardharë intellectuals, in 1938, under the auspices of Mitrush Kuteli, and then Director of Tourism, Princess Maxhide Zogu.
- In the early twentieth century, Dardha village counted 400 houses
- The study of village architecture testifies to a particular model of European style
- Dardha all residents' homes are suitable for the accommodation comfortable and quite comfortable and can also find luxury accommodation with sauna and fitness
- Yet there is also the former home of holiday, which functioned under the dictatorship with popular sheets camp. Today it is back in the hotel's restaurant.
- The birthplace of two foil pie (Lakrori in sac) and wild plum raki
- The only ski tow in Korca Region
- Traditional Dardha Costume is one of the most famous in Albania
- Prominent intellectuals of cultured people (www.visit-korca.com)

2.2.1.1   Dardha Cultural Trail
A.  Description of the Trail
(Circular hike): Dardha Centre – Uji i qelbur Water Source – Saint Peter Church – Antenna –Rahut Stone – Dardha Centre
Distance: 5 km
Marking: white/red/white
Difficulty: Moderate
Altitude variation 188m/ Min.  Altitude 1300m/Max.  Altitude 1488m
Hiking time: 2-3 hours
This hike combines several natural and cultural attractions around the village. Including Uji i Qelbur Water Source, Batalioni Plateau, the Orthodox Church of Saint Peter, impressive panoramic view of Dardha and surrounding villages from the Antenna, a forest hike and Rahut Stone looking to Dardha village, covering approx. 5 km in total with a hiking time of 2-3 hours.

B.  Hiking Trail Map

C.  Construction Intervention Plan:
The Scenic Hiking Trail needs some improvements including: construction of panoramic rails, construction of rope handrail, removing of bushes or roots from the path, installing of additional information boards and signage, climbing and going down ladders/stairs, waste removal and construction of one small bridge.

Find bellow a detailed list based on specific locations of the trail:   

Sulfuric Water Source/ Stinking Water
- a rope handrail
- Barbed wire (should be removed)
- Signage (need to placed)
- bushes, roots, branches, creating space for the hiking trail

Battalion Plateau
- Hiking trail information board
- Signage (placement of a table)

Saint Peter Church
- Panoramic balcony behind church 10-12 m and approximately 10 m balcony towards the bench in total 20-22 m (as one of dominant points that can a good place for taking photos)
- Placement of informative table / signage

Vodafone Antenna
- Climbing ladders to the antenna (about 20-25 m)
- Hammering the site around the antenna
- Beware of the employees of Vodafone taking care about the antenna, for not polluting the environment with oils, petroleum and plastic bottles
- Panoramic surrounding rail of about 15 m
- Improve of the path for going back from the antenna

Forest
- Improving the tap in the beginning of the forest, setting waste bins (2 pieces)
- Expansion and improvement of the end of the forest path
- Establish or improve of the path going down creating some stairs in the roots of trees

Rahut Stone
- Improving the path going down  in Rahut stone (to eliminate slippery)
- Creating a wooden stairs on the side near the trees in the right side of Rahut stone
- Information table, signaling that the way to the village continues right way

Stream
- Construction of a pedestrian bridge to cross the stream (something similar to the bridge built in the Stinking Water – Uji i Qelbur)
- Improve path that climbs to the village, waste disposal and placement of signals to avoid this phenomenon in the future

ANNEX I

METHODOLOGY

1.    Trails and types of trails
2.    Importance of the trails’net
3.    Signs and signal labels
3.1    Types of signs
3.1.1    Primary signs
3.1.2    Secondary signs
4.    Maintenance of trails

1.Trails and types of trails

Trail definition: pathway, usually a narrow road, which is created in field or mountain places, as a consequence of frequent pass of people and animals.

the only juridical definition about “trail” is found in the Road Code, Article 3 (Road definition and traffic), first paragraph, n. 43, which defines the trail as a: PATHWAY: road with a natural basement, created for passing of pedestrians and animals. Term “trail” is also mentioned in the Article 6 of this Law (Regulation of traffic out of the urban areas) in the point 2 it is written: Competent body of local Governance annually decides and set proper rules for periodic movements of the animal groups, defining time, itineraries, and intervals of time and place. Whomever, who does not obey this rule, is punished through administrative measures, by paying a penalty of two thousand and five hundred ALL till ten thousand ALL.

Due to the fact that in Albania, there is no juridical classification of pedestrian trails and sub-trails for touristic purposes, it is done the classification of the types of trails of mountainous walking, according to three main categories:
1.Trail of a light difficulty: easy climbing in a distingtive trail, easy for orientation, without using a map.
2.Trail of a moderate difficulty: marked trail with possibilities of strong climbing and/or with parts of dangerous sliding. General skills for orientation are required.
3.Tril of a high difficulty: it is marked and usually pass through non-easy distinguished parts. This terrain is suitable for people who have very good orientation skills. It may have some parts exposed (trail near a precipice) and difficult climbing. Also it is needed pre-knowledge of alpin equipments.
Developed countries, where the trails are part of State Immovable Properties Offices, has a more detailed divisions and management of pedestrian touristic trails and hiking ones as well. Italian System defines 9 categories of touristic trails, while the Swiss one divides the trails in 5 levels according to the difficulty.

2.Importance of trail’s net and definition criteria
Our society is showing an increased interest in excursions and there is a continuous increase of number of tourists oriented in climbing field or mountainous trails. For these reasons, pedestrian and hiking trails should be equipped with the necessary signage. There are more areas in Alpine Zone in Italy, where tourism of excursions presents more than half of the reasons of the presence of visitors in this area.
Trails should be equipped with the necessary signage and organized/ documented with mps and designs in regional and national level.
To define the trails in a Regulatory Urban Plan, the following priorities should be taken into account:
-Inter-valleys connections in the existing pathways, beginning from the villages or from the end part of the valleys;
-The inns of shepherds;
-Historical and natural values of these trails;
-Capacities for the right maintenance¹;
-Ecological impact²;

¹example. Trails that are not used anymore from the inhabitants and that are situated in forest or bushes areas are difficult to be maintained, because they are blocked from the bushes and woods that fall from the snow pressure or other different factors.
²In the protected area it is needed the assessment of specialised authorities.

It must be excluded the design of new trails (except the unusual cases when cannot be solved differently). Always the trails should be designed according to the existing net.

3.Signs and signage
If the visitors may do not know the territory they want to visit, if they could be able to read a detailed topographic map, than the signs will be not necessary. The majority of visitors are not experts of mountains and of maps reading (lack of maps quality in our country as well) so signs are very helpful for them

3.1Types of signs
Trails Signs System has two categories:

Primary signs (or vertical signs) – mainly, these signs are labels and tables placed at the beginning of the trail and in the important cross-roads. They contain information about relaxing places, with the name and height quote or destination (the closest place, the middle and the furthest place) with the time of pass and number of trail³ , other informative tables for thematic trails, to instruct the walk inside the trail, environment protection etc.
Secondary signs (horizontal or intermediate signs)
These are road pointers colored in white-red-white, which are placed at the beginning or along the trail, over immovable stones, or trunk tree. They are used to offer information about the continuance and certifying the road.

³In our country there is not yet decided a standard for trails’numbering

3.1.1    Primary signs
Road pointers tables
It is used to show the direction of the place of trail destination and the time defined for a moderate excursionist.

 

It is placed in the beginning of the rod and in the most important crossroads. This table may be metallic, wooden or plastic material4 . The sustaining pillar should be around 2.5m over ground and 60 cm underground.

4In North of Albania iron tables are used, (photos in this page). This methos should be used throughout the country in order to have a unified signs system.

Standard size:
-    length: 55 cm
-    height: 15 cm
-    thickness: 2 cm if it is wood, for the other materials it should be considered the material hardness.

Location Table   
It is found in the most important crossroads of a trails (crossings, mountain paths, small urban areas) which may be seen in the map; it is necessary to be written the name of location and its height quote.

Standard size is 5x5 cm, from the same material of road pointers, white colored or simple wood, with black text.
It is placed in the same sustaining pillar of the road pointer table.
Table “Respect the environment and follow the trail”
 Is placed near the short roads, inviting the excursionists to follow the trail, to avoid damages of the trail itself and to respect the environment (size 25x15 cm)

Table of thematic trail
They are placed in the edges and in the important points of the trail. They contain information about trail theme (history, nature, geology, etc). They stimulate the visitor to know deeper the trail theme and to appreciate it. Colors used for the table are white or original wood with black text written in it. It is possible to include road logo5.  (size 25x15)

 5Except their name some trails have their own logo. See trail Peaks of the Balkans (www.peaksofthebalkans.com).

Tables for hiking and/or riding
It is placed in agreement with any authority or associations, which collaborate for the road maintenance, not only for pedestrian crossing, but even for other usage.
It is white colored or original wood, with black text written on it.
(size 25x15 cm).

The common table or framework
It is a big table, placed in the villages, which has access to the trails. It presents all the roads of the area, incorporated from the geographic, environmental and historical point of view. The main sustaining structure is made of wood. It contains three tables of smaller size (wood or other material) which refer to:
1)map with schemes of trails net and road connection with the existing infrastructure (size 90x60 cm);
2)list of excursionist roads accessible from the trail, number of trails, times of crossing (size 90 x 20 cm)
3)discription notes of environmental and historicl character, linked with the territory and other informations for that area (size 90 x 30 cm)
The maximum size of the framework is 140 x 110 cm. i is placed over a pillar with a diameter of 10 cm, around 90 cm over the ground. The protective side part of the framework should be extended around 30 cm. The framework may also be glued to the walls or existing structure, authorized institutionally.

3.1.2    Secondary signs
Secondary or intermediate signs are those used in the ground, laced over the stones or trees to show the continuance in both directions. In Albania, colors used for these tables are white-red-white

Red arrows

They show fountains, water source, and stream nearby;
Red arrow, with black text, must be directed to the place
where the water is, showing the distance in meters. It is used only when the water or another object of a great importance for the trail, is located out of it. Size: 8 x 10 cm.

Road pointers Pillars

They are placed along the trails, which cross in opened areas
 or meadows that do not have instructing natural elements.
Usually it is wood with a diameter 6-8 cm, height 60-80 cm over the ground. The upper part is white-red-white colored.

Stone gathering

It creates a system of useful natural signs, considered as sustainable and economical. Compared with arrows, stone gathering is more visible in difficult conditions, especially during snow in mountainous areas. It is not necessary to create big buildings or strong walls, just small amount of stones situated in a place are enough to show the direction. Unfortunately this type of signing is not always possible. It can be used in the places where stones are in a great amount. It is advised to integrate the mass of stones with other signals such as arrows etc.

4.Maintenance
To maintain a functional network path commitment is needed. It requires passion, cooperation, competence and continuity.
Repairing of the signs is advised to be done when they are still in good conditions. The repairing time depends on the quality of paint, ground and atmospheric conditions.
If a proper cut of shrubs that grow where the trail is going to pass, is done during the vegetative period (late autumn) and at ground level, can cause less damage to the plant.
Trails transformed into small streams are no longer considered as trails. If water starts to erode the end of the trail new ways to avoid this phenomenon must be found. Water channels are created in such situations, in order to transform the water path till it reaches the nearest gorge. It is advised that the channel has stone ends which are placed in the ground by their most severe part. The channel should be kept unblock in order to avoid turning the path into a torrent. Creating sketches of the trails and the registration of the interference are very important for the maintenance of it continuity .The sketch should contain the main elements of the pathway (Table vertical direction- intersections, trail problems, interventions on the trail by land damage scroll, etc.). Mapping the interventions makes it simple for evaluating the interference in the trail.
The figure below shows an example of the sketching. It is necessary of the sketch to contain the legend of the signs used.

ANNEX II
Overview of the eco trails on the Korca Region and Short description  
http://www.everytrail.com

Marking conditions: five trails in Dardha, three in Voskopja and three in Vithkuq. The trails were inspected by a group of six persons, members of exploring club.
Please see the details for each trail below:


Markings in the Dardha area are well done. Signs bear on the trail but more signs must be added in some cases where there is a difficult ground and exit path is possible. Some minor adjustments are required, such as the replacement of markings on moving objects or repairing guide markings showing only way movement.
 
Details of inspected trails
1. Dardhë – Drenovë

-  Trail markings orient the people just in one direction Dardhë – Drenovë and not the other way round.
- Two sing problems- moving stones must be improved  
- A pointing arrow it is needed for the water source because it is not visible from the trail.

2. Maja e Bigllës së Drenovës

- The marking signs are visible only in the clockwise direction of the trail. The anti clock wise direction should be repaired.
- More signs should be added in the valleys, because it is difficult to be oriented in the cross ways.  
- Two –three marking signs with moving stoners should be replaced  

3. Guri i Vjeshtës (Autumn stone)

- Small sign repairs should be done in the anti clockwise direction of the trail.
- The forest road needs more signs. The existing ones are not visible.
- Some marking signs with moving stoners should be replaced  

4. Dardhë – Sinicë – Arrëz

-The anti clockwise marking signs must be completed.  
-More signs in the crossroads especially in the cross road after Sinica river the road used to climb the hill that takes you to Dardha . (Anti clockwise direction).
- Some marking signs with moving stoners should be replaced  

5. Dardhë – Guri i Rrahut – Guri i Neckes – Dardhë

- More clear signs at Dardha corner
- Some signs are not visible from both directions

Vithkuq
By the trails inspected it is noticed  that markings are not enough and can easily draw you out the trail. Signs should carefully be placed in  junctions and  along the trail. The signs must be both sides of the movement (clockwise  and anti clockwise).


Some details form the trails inspected are:
1. The Trail Church of Vithkuq

- There are very rare signs and it is difficult to start the trail.
- There are no signs for the Saint Kostandin Church and for the small church near the river.  At the corner after the restaurant it is needed a sign, to orient the way to Saint Kostandin church. Signs are needed even during the way to the church and the way back.  
- The road from  Shën Mëhillit church till the river is mostly marked. It should be added other signs sduch as passing the river with no bridge and the link with the small church.   

2. Maja e Rrungajës

- There is no marking sign for the begginign of the trail.According to the  GPS the trails tarts at the corner in front of  Shën Mëhillit church. It is upposed that the marking has started for, this church, but no marking signs we seen here.
- The marking signs must be placed more often and they must be carefully placed in the cross roads ( in some of them are missing).

3. The long trail around  Vithkuqit

- There are indications at the begging of the trail for the church trail. No marking signs for the trail that passes in Shtylle village.  
- In the cross roads the marking signs are missing. More signs should be added during the trails.
-A part of the trail is destroyed from the reservoir. Signs should be placed there to better orient the direction

 Voskopojë
The marking signs are not enough and there are cases where you can derive from the path. It requires the addition of signs, especially at crossroads or meadows where trails are not very visible. Also should  be marked with new signs the Voskopoja –Shipske trail  which has old and inadequate signs old.

Trail details :
1. Voskopoja Hills  (Antena)

-    The marked path varies in two places with what is recorded on GPS. Some  slight changes in the electronic path must be done.
-    Marking signs must be placed more often.  
-    At the top in antena it must be placed a clear indicator for the continuance of the trail. 

2. Churches’ trail

-    More marking sings especially in the cross roads

3. Voskopojë – Shipskë – Voskopojë

- It is marked the automobile  road instead of the trail  that is slightly above parallel with it. It should be marked trail.
- There are markings on mobile objects from Shipskë sector to the Monastery of St. Prodhomi which should improved
 
- Some old markings from a previous project are inadequate. It should be removed nail markings and arrows placed in the trees

Municipality of Nestorio
Address: Nestorio, 52051, Greece
Tel : +30 2467 352300
Fax: +30 2467 031242
Email: Dimos_nestoriou@0807.syzefxis.gov.gr
Web site: www.nestorio.gr

Municipality of Korce
Address: 28 Nentori, L7, Korce, Albania
Tel : + 355 8224 3353
Fax: + 355 8224 2004
Email: info@bashkiakorce.gov.al
Web site: www.bashkiakorce.gov.al

CALLISTO Wildlife and Nature Conservation Society
Address: Kipourio, 51031, Greece
Tel : +30 24620 75392
Fax: +302310 272190
Email: Spyros@callisto.gr
Web site: www.callisto.gr

Through this project, the three partners from Greece and Albania are cooperating in order to create a single tourist project which will stimulate the touristic development of the area