End of the wild campers on the Costa Vicentina only with “unification of all units” – ICNF

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The end of wild caravanning in the Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina (PNSACV) in the Algarve would only be possible if there was “an association and collaboration of all the bodies involved”, he told the press, an INCF source.

“This will be resolved not with one entity, but with all entities that have to work together, and above all with the civic spirit of those who use these spaces”, the regional director of the Algarve’s Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests (ICNF) told Lusa.

According to Joaquim Castelão Rodrigues, responsibility “isn’t just for the park”, as “it’s the municipalities that own the area”, and in the area of the cliffs, responsibility lies with the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA).

“But we have not run away from our responsibility,” he argued.

At stake is a growing challenge from local businessmen because of illegal overnight stays by dozens of caravanists in the parks of several beaches in Aljezur and Vila do Bispo. Although there were prohibition signs, they told the press that at the end of July the parking lots began to fill with caravans.

The Regional Director said that after taking office in May 2019, the ICNF stepped up its inspection of these situations, which resulted in “1,109 notices” in the second half of the year and “1,089 in the first six months of 2020”.

The last action took place on Thursday, in collaboration with the National Republican Guard (GNR) and the Municipality of Vila do Bispo, with “116 warnings, of which 91 for offences related to camping, wild caravanning and illegal parking in unauthorised areas, and 25 for failure to respect traffic rules”.

“There is no lack of inspections, there is no capacity to carry out daily inspections in all places and on all beaches,” he stressed.

Castelão Rodrigues said that “20% of the procedures are paid voluntarily” and that the rest follow the “slow” process of the offence, but stressed that “the recent installation of signs prohibiting the circulation of campers allows the GNR to act within the Highway Code with the timely collection”.

According to Castelão Rodrigues, it is necessary to work out an awareness-raising campaign to draw attention “to the nature of the park” and the resulting “deterioration of the environment”, which “was not possible this year, but will happen in 2021”.

GNR vs. illegal campers
GNR vs. illegal campers

With regard to the accusations of bureaucracy hindering the construction of campsites in the PNSACV, the ICNF regional director argued that the new directorate “has already approved criteria to license more parks” that have “allowed the four municipalities” of the PNSACV to “make their voices heard by those who know the area and put an end to this bureaucracy that the regulation creates”.

The Mayor of Aljezur confirmed to the press that he had received the document “two months ago” and the subsequent response from the municipal administration “pending the conclusion of the process”. According to José Gonçalves, “for five years” the criteria for the possibility of caravan parking have been discussed”.

The mayor said that “signposts have been put up indicating prohibitions” and “ditches and some stones to make access to some areas more difficult”, namely the cliffs, but that “a concerted action with more incidents and inspections” is needed.

“No conclusions will be drawn,” he lamented.

Apart from the PNSACV regulations, “it is necessary to change some rules”, he claimed, using the example of the toilets on Amado beach, that “they would not be possible under the Coastal Zone Plan (POOC)”, which also makes it difficult “to create campsites through the private sector”.

The mayor revealed that a document containing an “inventory of area and land photographs” was being finalised to “present the reality that needs to be changed” to the ministries responsible for the environment and tourism.

As a solution, José Gonçalves defended “the repression of those who really abuse”, but also “changes to the Highway Code” that included “converted vans” and the possibility of “collecting the files on the spot, not only for Portuguese people but also for foreigners”.

In response to the press, the GNR reported that between January 1 and August 12, 2020, during various inspections in Costa Vicentina, it produced “72 records of offences for illegal camping / caravans”, a number that rose to “116 records” in 2019.

He also notes that “the files are sent to the administrative unit responsible for this matter, namely the ICNF, which is responsible for investigating the case and imposing the relevant fines”.

When asked about the ban on caravans or similar vehicles in parks and car parks, which was tightened up in connection with the Covid 19 pandemic, the GNR stated that “it has carried out more targeted surveillance to inform and raise awareness among the population, trying to disseminate the rules in force, while acting decisively when necessary”.

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