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Marseille's Calanques: France's National Treasure

The Marseille calanques, with their 45 kilometers of white limestone cliffs that plunge into the Mediterranean, are about to become a protected national park. If all goes according to plan, the french national park label will take effect by the end of 2011.

Why a National Park?

Each year, about 2 million visitors enjoy the Marseille calanques in southern France, whether by boat or from land. Many fish, rip the Posidonia underwater plant with their boat anchors (the posidonia produce a great deal of oxygen and are considered the "lungs of the Med"), tread without much thought for its ecologically fragile environment.

The calanques are a much beloved landscape for the inhabitants of nearby Marseille. After all, they've been the pride of this seabound region for ages. And it's only a mere 432-meter high Marseilleveyre hill that keeps the gorgeous calanques and Marseille apart. So it seems logical to most of the population that they be protected. How should they be protected? Well, that's been a subject of controversy for ages, especially for land or business owners. But it appears that the National Park option wins.

So the idea is to protect the ecology of the calanques, to ensure that it's remains in full beauty for the future.

Currently, only the Miou archipel is formally protected as it was bought by the Conservatoire du Littoral in 1992 for a marine sanctuary.

What will change?

HikesCalanques Not a whole lot from a visitor's viewpoint. Access will continue to be free. Non-invasive activities like hiking, horseback riding, biking, will continue to be allowed. We expect to improved trail maintenance over time, with areas blocked off only when they're particularly environmentally sensitive.

With the advent of the National Park, expect to see camping more widely disallowed and mountain biking restricted to trails. A fair restriction to help keep the area stunning for years to come.

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