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Economic development or environmental protection. “El Despeñadero”.

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Alejandro López Escolano

The purpose of this post is to analyse and reflect on a project designed for a natural area.

First of all, the area proposed for the study is going to be located. The place considered in order to carry out this investigation is Algar de Mesa, a small village from Guadalajara situated in the Valle del Mesa. This village is in the Northeast of Castilla-La Mancha, sharing boundary with Zaragoza and taking part of the Geopark of the Molina de Aragon-Alto Tajo Region as stated by UNESCO, close to the Monasterio de Piedra Natural Park. Therefore, it is located in some of the natural areas that are well-known not only at national level but also worldwide.

With regard to the fauna of this area, the griffon vulture should be outlined and, even it is a endangered animal, many of them can be sighted since they nest there.

One of the most beautiful and unknown landscapes that we can find in this area can be found in Algar de Mesa, and it is called “El Despeñadero”. It is off the beaten track but the views from the top of the mountain are astonishing, since you can see a considerable part of the Valle del Mesa Canyon, which consists of a fall to the river that allows you to enjoy the view from about 100 meters of height. 

In order to get to this area, it is necessary to go across dense holm oak and savin forests, since there is not a specific path formed. This may be the main reason why this place is quite unknown as well as the fact that the nearest established path is two kilometers away from there. Lately, it has been proposed to create a path to avoid the risk people should take when they want to get there, including the establishment of a fence.

However, this fact means that the landscape needs to be modified because some trees, plants and vegetation would be removed. Additionally, placing the fence could imply the lose of flore and the animals living there can be affected as well. Similarly, the presence of people who decide to visit it can also affect the environment and the different habitats of species that, as in the case of the griffon vultures, are in danger of going extinct. Undeniably, these habitats have to be protected as far as posible.

Then, even if it could be a great deal of discussion, we should ask ourselves: Is it worthwhile to carry out these changes in the environment so it can become a well-known tourist destination? or should we continue preserving it in order to conserve its natural quality?

Currently, the “España Vaciada” (as we commonly name nowadays to the most uninhabited villages) is dealing with a particular problem: attracting people in order to make them settle down there. It is certainly true that this population loss is a real fact involving a dreadful consequence, this is, the ‘disappearance’ of some villages. Therefore, measures like the ones named before can attract tourists as well as benefit the economic profitability. In relation to this last point, due to the tourism some bars, restaurants, hotel and shops can be set up in rural areas.

A possible solution in order to fulfill the needs of both parts could be to visit ocassionally this particular place and, if possible, in small groups (20-30 people). In this way, the environment wouldn’t suffer tragic consequences and the economy of the village would improve. A different solution is related to the creation of a “hide”, which consists of a small house or hut with large windows that allow people to contemplate the impressive landscapes and gaze at the fauna living in there. Definitely, this seems to be a good alternative.

Looking for alternatives that benefit each one of the parts involved and concerned is not an easy task. Nonetheless, if we take sustainable actions and measures, we can be able to create unique areas that can be visited without harming or damaging the natural space, contributing to a new lifestyle for the inhabitants and letting tourists to become interested in that, improving the local economy.

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