Historic Public Paths in rural areas: Engine of development and origin of new conflicts
Moscoso Sánchez, David J.
Nasarre-Sarmiento, José María
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Purpose: In this article, the authors analyse a complex social process affecting historic public paths in rural areas in southern Spain. Despite the fact that urban populations are demanding the enhancement of this type of natural heritage for tourism, sports and recreational use, some parts of the network have been abandoned or usurped. Design/methodology/approach: The study is multidisciplinary, comprising three interlinked studies. The cartographic study comprises an inventory of public paths in rural areas based on administrative sources. The legal study analyses local, regional and national regulations governing agricultural, environmental, heritage, sports and tourism uses of the infrastructure. The sociological study analyses social discourses on the uses of public paths, and identifies conflicts between farmers, landowners, environmentalists, sportspeople and tourists. Findings: The preliminary results identified an important public paths network in Andalusia, approximately 160,000 km. The legal study found that there are laws regulating use, although local authorities do not monitor compliance or provide solutions to enhance management. The sociological study determined the attribution of environmental, cultural and economic value to public paths, but also the existence of conflicts between rural and urban populations. Research limitations/implications: Given that this is ongoing research, only state of the art and some preliminary albeit sufficiently consistent results are presented. Practical implications: The results could help to guide public policy and governance of public paths. Social implications: Public paths promote rural development and a green/sustainable economy. Originality/value: The research results and conclusions are original.