On Monday 27 November, an important meeting took place between the partners involved in the RivierPark Maasvallei project. They met that day to confirm their structural cooperation on this cross-border landscape park with the official signing of a five-year cooperation agreement between the 9 Dutch partners. "In doing so, we are implementing the declaration of intent that was endorsed in 2015”, says Eric Geurts, Tourism deputy of the Dutch province of Limburg.
Since 2009, the 11 Meuse valley municipalities of the RivierPark Maasvallei and the two provinces of Limburg have been joining forces with many other partners to reinforce the sustainable relationship between ecology, recreation, flood protection and the socio-economic development of the Meuse Valley and the string of Meuse villages nearby. The main objective of this cooperation is to develop the Meuse Valley between Maastricht/Lanaken and Thorn/Kessenich across borders into an ecological highway in the Euregion and an economically successful landscape from a tourism point of view. The landscape and touristic qualities of the spacious riverbed and the string of Meuse villages will be further developed and provided with a high-quality tourist-recreational infrastructure.
From intention to structural cooperation
This cross-border cooperation was announced in a letter of intent on 7 October 2015. "In the meantime, there has been a lot of coordination and cooperation, and important first steps have been taken," says Igor Philtjens, Tourism deputy in Belgian Limburg. "Concrete achievements are the integration of the corporate identity (benches, information pillars and signs) on Dutch territory and the guides network (Meuse Explorers), for which a joint system has been in place since the beginning of this year.”
On 27 November, an agreement was signed between the Dutch partners, which marks the start of five-year structural cooperation with the Flemish partners, in which the three main themes - Recreation and Tourism, Nature and Landscape and (Cultural) Heritage - are fleshed out in seven subprojects. These are: ferries, integration of Meuse Explorers, development of new nature areas and coordination of management, a joint approach to litter in and around the river, bicycle and hiking trails and other forms of recreation. Overarchingly, the communication and marketing of the RivierPark Maasvallei will be done independently in this cross-border implementation programme.
A concrete consequence of this signing is that nine Dutch partners are prepared to co-finance the expansion of the RivierPark on both banks of the Meuse. This is in addition to the financial contribution from Flanders. This concerns an additional amount of approximately 1.2 million euros (Dutch contribution for 5 years). The overall project management and the day-to-day management and follow-up are in the hands of the ‘Regionaal Landschap Kempen en Maasland vzw’ (RLKM) in Genk. Cross-border cooperation is very special because the municipal and national borders are blurring and concrete agreements have been made on the realisation of the subprojects.
1] The nine Dutch partners are: Province of Limburg, City of Maastricht, Municipality of Meerssen, Municipality of Stein, Municipality of Sittard-Geleen, Municipality of Echt-Susteren, Municipality of Maasgouw, ‘Staatsbosbeheer’ (Forestry Management Agency) and ‘Natuurmonumenten’ (Natural Monuments).
2] It involves the six Dutch municipalities referred to above and the municipalities of Lanaken, Maasmechelen, Kinrooi, as well as the towns of Dilsen-Stokkem and Maaseik in Belgian Limburg.