Prof. Eric Holmlund and five Paul Smith’s College students are in Italy helping officials develop an ecotourism plan for the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines National Park.
From left, students T.J. Johnson, Barrie Potter, Emily Bertora, Victoria Lore, Professor Eric Holmlund, and student Jane Swartz
The students and professor have learned that the Apennines became a national park in 2001, and since then, the protected area has faced many of the same challenges and opportunities as New York State’s Adirondack Park: It needs a tourism economy to grow and environmental regulation to protect it, but it also needs to balance those ambitions with the needs of the people who have lived there for generations. Paul Smith’s College is located within the boundaries of an immense state park which is 100 times as large as the Parco Nazionale Appennino Tosco-Emilano.
The five-student team is working with the Marco Polo Study Abroad Italy program to understand the balance between community development and natural resource protection . “I’m especially excited about this project because it’s not just a study-abroad program,” says Paul Smith’s College President John W. Mills. “Our students are over there producing an actual product.”
The students are well versed in ecotourism, natural resource management and policy, hospitality and culinary arts, so they can help Appennino park officials promote the many opportunities for recreation, agricultural tourism, and community tourism in the region.
The park is underused in terms of year-round visitation by domestic and foreign tourists, and is essentially undiscovered by American tourists. “We’re among the first American tourists to visit these small, exquisite mountain communities,” Holmlund says. “But we hope to change that. The students are conducting interviews with local officials and community members to help the park administration shape tourism development strategies into the future.”
The Paul Smith’s College group meets the Mayor of Berceto, Park Director Guiseppe Vignalli, the Priest of the Berceto church, and Giacomo Berselli of the Marco Polo Institute.