National Pilgrim Center
National Pilgrim Center is responsible for the public pilgrimage development in Norway, coordinating and prioritizing tasks and resources. The public pilgrim routes in Norway are meant to function as incubators for positive and sustainable development. The pilgrim routes are open for all.
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Cultural Route of the Council of Europe
The Norwegian National Pilgrim Center, in collaboration with the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, has prepared a sustainability analysis of the Pilgrimsleden trails.
Master's thesis for NMBU, The sustainable development of the pilgrim trail, by Mattias Jansson, 2021
This was written as an independent, objective master's thesis however its findings and results, as well as its recommendations, may also be relevant for other pilgrim trails.
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Read the abstract here:
"Sustainable development of the Pilgrim Trails”
Interest in pilgrimage and the use of pilgrim trails has flourished in recent years, both in Norway and abroad. The increasing number of pilgrims in Spain has necessitated the development of plans and strategies to safeguard the sustainability of these areas. Along the Pilgrim trail between Oslo and Trondheim, the number of pilgrims has increased annually by about 20%. This trail leads through vulnerable nature and in close proximity to cultural landscapes. The need for research that examines challenges and opportunities involved in further sustainable use of the trail must also be addressed here.
This master's thesis examines the types of situations and uses impacting the sustainability of the St. Olav’s Route “Gudbrandsdalsleden” between Oslo and Trondheim. This includes the impact on the natural and cultural environment, attitudes towards infrastructure, sustainability measures and environmental certifications related to UNWTO's strategy for sustainable tourism. I have conducted two surveys and answered four questions that deal with these topics. The data is based on a quantitative survey of hikers on the Pilgrim trail, as well as a qualitative survey with interviews of ten participants who work with or in the vicinity of the trail. Results of the quantitative survey show that the most important factors for a pilgrimage are to experience nature and a desire to walk in peace and quiet. The 120 respondents walked an average of 16 days. They show little purism and express preferences for a good infrastructure with good signage, marked trails, planking and rest stops and also showed positive attitudes towards sustainability and environmental certifications. Statistical analyses show that the answers from Norwegian and foreign pilgrims are generally similar, the exception being that foreign pilgrims to a greater extent wanted to “walk alone” and “walk for miles without meeting others”. They also believe to a greater extent, that it is difficult to be environmentally friendly along the trail. The qualitative study reveals initially positive views of the pilgrim trail for the regions through which it passes, but that there is also some degradation of the natural and cultural environment; this being associated with camping, water erosion of paths and variation of central infrastructure. The participants also wanted greater focus on the availability of information along the trail, as a means of strengthening sustainability and an infrastructure that takes greater care of the existing cultural landscape.
The thesis discusses challenges associated with pricing, the role of hosts, waste disposal and toilet facilities as well as challenges associated with the right of public access. The thesis concludes with recommendations for developments in infrastructure, dissemination of information and channelisation. It also encourages greater network building as well as greater use of environmental certification schemes.
Key words: sustainable development, infrastructure, environmental certification, Pilgrim Trail, St. Olav’s route to Trondheim, hiking trails.