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Nerja's Río Chíllar is a popular destination in summer among locals and tourists alike. E. Cabezas
These are the three proposals to manage visitor access to popular Costa del Sol beauty spot
Tourism

These are the three proposals to manage visitor access to popular Costa del Sol beauty spot

Nerja’s Río Chíllar can attract up to 3,000 people a day, during the summer months, to the protected area in the heart of the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama natural park

Eugenio Cabezas

Nerja

Wednesday, 6 March 2024, 18:43

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Three companies have submitted bids to take over management of the popular Chíllar river beauty spot in Nerja on the eastern stretch of the Costa del Sol: Hermanos Campano S.L., from Ardales, Viajes Verano Azul S.L., from Nerja and Construcciones Sánchez Domínguez (Sando), from Malaga.

The projects for the management of the access control system of the protected beauty spot include charging between five and 12 euros to enter. The Junta de Andalucía is also looking into ways of controlling access by charging people. The project comes after over a decade of environmental consequences and accidents caused by overcrowding and a total lack of control.

On some days in the summer months it is thought that over 3,000 people have entered the protected area in the heart of the Sierras Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama natural park. It was closed during the pandemic and Nerja town hall decided to completely close access to it last summer until it is regulated.

Visitor numbers

In terms of maximum visitor numbers, the Sando proposal considers allowing up to 500 visitors per day during the summer months when the service would be in operation, with an average of 350 per day. Campano also put the maximum at 500, but said that this could be "extended in the event of specific circumstances". Viajes Verano Azul reduces these figures to a range of between 150 and 200 people per day, with groups of up to 40 people.

In terms of routes, Sando proposes two itineraries: a shorter one of nine kilometres which can be done on foot up to the well-known Cahorros, the limestone canyon which crosses the river, and a longer 18-kilometre route which would reach the Vado de los Patos. In this proposal, they also propose a third alternative with a shuttle bus to La Fuente del Esparto and the Collado de los Apretaderos areas.

Both Verano Azul and Hermanos Campano propose guided routes, with the possibility of shuttle service from the car parks in Calle Mirto. In all cases, the companies propose the installation of control booths at the entrances, toilets and even a video-surveillance camera circuit in the case of Sando S.A.

Both Verano Azul and Hermanos Campano include recreational areas with benches and tables, in the Fábrica de la Luz area. The opening hours are similar in the three proposals, with access regulated from 9am to 6pm, with a final closing time of 8pm.

Public consultation

In their proposals, Verano Azul and Hermanos Campano include small actions to improve the safety of the route, such as dams, steps and handrails. The three companies also refer to the cleaning of paths and the elimination of vegetation, including the removal of dry trees as a preventive measure against fires. The number of contracted personnel ranges between five from Verano Azul, seven from Campano and up to eight from Sando. Only Hermanos Campano specifies in its project the contracting of a civil liability insurance, as well as offering an optional guided tour.

A period of public consultation is open until 18 March whereby interested parties may present objections or comments on the three bids.

For the Gabinete de Estudios de la Naturaleza (GENA-Ecologistas en Acción), which has already been very critical of the initiative to charge for access, "In general terms, from a business point of view, the Campano S.L. proposal is the most professional, taking into account a wide range of organisational elements".

However, for the group's spokesman, biologist Rafael Yus, among the most negative aspects of the three business proposals, from an environmental point of view, is the fact that they “encourage tourism in the area and, therefore, a greater environmental burden”.

Positive points

Yus went on to say, "They are aiming for a maximum of 500 people, an excessive number that can make control difficult. They are planning the construction of wooden buildings: control huts, support huts, chemical toilets, introducing artificial elements in a natural area, as well as the construction of artificial elements: dams, pools or ponds, tables, benches, signs, steps, handrails, etc., also contributing to the artificialisation of an environment whose main charm is its naturalness.”

In his opinion, another of the most questionable aspects is that, "in order to facilitate transit, vegetation is removed". "Vegetation should not be eliminated but cared for. Some species are protected and in any case form the ecosystem. Moreover, in order to prevent fires, dry branches are removed and dry trunks are cut down. Dry branches and trees are habitats for a part of the saprophytic biodiversity. The removal of weeds is included in the clean-up. Weeds are not dirt but natural elements that should be respected as part of ecosystems," he argued.”

However, the daily collection of rubbish, specification of environmentally acceptable standards of behaviour, control of visitor activity, rapid response to accidents, clearly marking out recreational areas, the nature and environmental talks and the discounts for residents, schoolchildren and pensioners, are the main "positive points" that GENA sees in the proposals of the three companies.

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