France restricts visitors in attempts to rescue beloved beach in Calanques near Marseille
French authorities said on Monday that they would begin testing limited daily permits to visit one of the most pristine bays near the Mediterranean city of Marseille, where summer masses have greatly increased the risk of erosion.
The high cliffs and the sapphire blue water at the pebble beach Sugiton are one of the main tourist attractions for Calanque National Park, not least because other parts of the forest reserve are often closed due to fire risks.
Around 1,500 people gather on the site every day during the high season, a major environmental strain for an escape just minutes outside France’s second largest city.
In recent years, people have increasingly stepped down the slope to the beach instead of taking the path that is intended to limit damage to vegetation.
“There is a real risk of erosion because there is some soil, not just rock, and in particular pine roots can be exposed and weakened,” a spokesman for the park told AFP.
“We could lose the whole landscape if we did nothing,” he said.
A sign in Marseille on March 16, 2021 indicates the start of the regulated area of Calanque National Park when new measures were announced to stop overcrowding after a hectic summer season 2020. © Nicolas Tucat, AFP To limit the number of visitors to 200 or 300 per day, a free booking site to be created with tests starting this spring, before implementation from “at least” July 15 to August 15.
Rangers will check permits at the entrance to the inlet and also perform random sampling, in an action that would be the first of its kind for a French national park.
It is the latest step for authorities fighting over-use on the environmentally fragile coastline.
They have already banned unauthorized boats from mooring at the entrances, drastically reduced parking spaces and started posting pictures of the crowded beaches on social media to discourage people from coming.