A history of cooperation
The first steps (1997 - 2005)
Under the framework of the European LEADER program, a focus on international cooperation for rural development was initiated.
Starting in 1997, the local action group in the Burgwald region in Germany established contacts in the "Huguenot" provinces in the South of France. It was from these regions that the Huguenots exiled themselves 300 years ago. Some settled in regions such as Burgwald.
This first contact created a dynamic relationship between Burgwald, in Hesse, and Diois and Val de Drôme, in the Drôme. Several projects saw the light of day : thematic hiking and biking loops based on the Huguenots, a network of local goods, the production of a play, the publishing of informative documents, and the creation of informational signs in "Huguenot" villages in Germany.
The idea for a European long distance trail (Sur les Pas des Huguenots) between the Dauphiné (France) and Bad Karlshafen (Hesse) was first proposed in 2003. Five LEADER+ local action groups (GAL) in Hesse (Burgwald, Kassel - Land, Kellerwald - Edersee, Lahn-Dill-Bergland and Odenwald) and two in France (Calades et Senteurs and Pays Diois) quickly joined with this idea and began preparing work on this important project. With these first partners it was possible to hold four international meetings between Dec. 2004 and Dec. 2005 to establish the project's goals, strategies, organization, and financing. At the same time, national meetings took place respectively between the partners in France and in Germany.
The planning phase of the project (2006-2008)
On an international level, this first phase included the creation of a charter and a market study.
On a national level, this phase focused on historical studies and questions of feasibility as well as mobilizing partners for the project.
Through these actions, a unique visual identity was created for all the countries and clear guidelines for a communication strategy were established. Ideas on how to continue growing the project were also proposed.
The various studies yielded many important suggestions such as the development of thematic paths for regions rich in cultural heritage and an evolution towards the goal of obtaining the label "Itinéraire Culturel européen" (European cultural itinerary).
The project's implementation phase (2009-2011)
In 2009, after much brainstorming, new agreement was signed with partners which allowed the project to redefine its priorities.
The agreement defined the structure which would be used by the project and its partners (in particular the national charter of common values).
National institutions were created for the project : the German national association "Sentier Huguenot et Vaudois" (Juin, 2009), the Swiss foundation "Via" (May, 2010) and the French national association "Sur les Pas des Huguenots" (April, 2011).
The construction of and implementation of the path follows several key stages :
- the verification of the itinerary and the GPS coordinates, putting in place continuous markings, and the creation of a guide for each segment.
- For the marketing strategy : the creation of an international map, the creation and publishing of a website with information on each segment, the publication of guides, the training of partners, the creation of cultural events, meetings, and gatherings linked to the project.
- "Exploration zones" were developed with local actors in various regions.
- Partners all along the itinerary were mobilized through the creation of several media events in France, Switzerland, and Germany.